No Wow is a solid, stripped back, raw boned piece of garage blues-rock.
Chris Long 2005-02-18
It's easy to dislike The Kills. Overflowing with pretension, they break the unwritten rule of rock by trying to be as cool as possible, when everyone knows that if you try to be cool, you'll fail every time. On this, their second album, they continue in their attempt to put the wow factor back into music, despite having singularly failed to do so on their 2003 debut, Keep On Your Mean Side. However, No Wow is a solid, stripped back, raw boned piece of garage blues-rock.
The Kills are the musical partnership of VV and Hotel (Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince to their friends) and the obvious comparison is the White Stripes. In truth, though, this is a duo cut from a British cloth, owing more to PJ Harvey and John Parish than to Jack and Meg. Indeed, No Wow seems to attempt to bring together Polly Jean's entire body of work, with Mosshart sounding too often like a karaoke copy of the south coast queen of avant-garde rock.
The similarities make it impossible for any fan of Harvey to dislike No Wow, but equally it's difficult to judge the album on its own merits. Lead single "The Good Ones" has the pop sensibilities of the To Bring You My Love era, "I Hate The Way You Love" nods towards last year's Uh Huh Her, "Rodeo Town" is desolately-driven like Is This Desire, while the title track touches on that most emotionally tough of Harvey's offerings, Rid Of Me.
Only the spectacularly sparse closing "Ticket Man" and the blues heavy "Sweet Cloud" escape with any semblance of originality intact, and even they sound like they were born in the London studio that produced The White Stripes' Elephant. There is pleasure to be found in No Wow, though next time they'd be better off using their own voice.