The critical lowdown on The Kills includes the belief that the band would not have attracted the attention it has if it weren't for The White Stripes, since The Kills are also a boy-girl duo who play blues-based loud rock. But couldn't the opposite be just as true? It sounds impossible, since the Stripes released their first album in 1999, at which time The Kills' vocalist VV (Alison Mosshart) was in a Florida punk band and hadn't even met her future partner, Londoner Hotel (Jamie Hince). That happened two years later, after the two had been trading tapes for some months and VV decamped to England.
But that's also what Detroit's White Stripes did after "White Blood Cells" made them the darlings of the rock press. The followup, "Elephant," was recorded at London's legendary Toe Rag studios by lo-fi Svengali Liam Watson in April 2002, two months after VV and Hotel had used the same studio and the same engineer to record their debut EP. Coincidence?
More like a confluence of similar ideas. The difference is in the process. Where Jack White distills the blues into art rock, The Kills work backward from punk to R&B. Stylistically, they resemble the Stones -- had the Stones decided to model their career on the Velvet Underground rather than The Beatles. VV, who takes her sexy snarl from PJ Harvey and her up-yours poetry from God knows where, sees R&B as the natural soundtrack of the demimonde. "Bet your suntan I can bitch about you," she spits, while Hotel churns up a boogie straight out of the gutter. Though not as imaginative as Jack White, Hotel seems more directly connected to the music he plays. "Keep on Your Mean Side," the duo's first album, is as punchy as a reflex action. The Kills' stomp 'n' slash style should sound pretty great on stage, even if there's only two of them. These days, it seems that's all it takes.
The Kills: May 14, 7 p.m., Harajuku Astro Hall, Tokyo. Tickets 3,700 yen. For more information, call Creativeman, (03) 5466-0777.