Monday, 23 March 2009

The Kills – Black Balloon EP

Lately Jamie Hince has been getting more tabloid attention as Kate Moss’s accessory than you’d think his habitually elusive nature would sustain, and Allison Mosshart’s been musically flirting with ex-tour mates Jack White and other members of the American-rock elite in hybrid side-project Dead Weather. You’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve been neglecting one another.

With this in mind, the Black Balloon EP comes as a shot of familiar filth in the arm, dispelling any notion that Hince and Mosshart aren’t still at the height of their combined creative powers. Acting as a heavyweight single release rather than genuinely presenting a mini-album of new material, the EP combines a re-release of its title track, taken from last year’s Midnight Boom LP, alternate versions of ‘Kissy Kissy’ and ‘Sour Cherry’, and off pat ingenuity in an acoustic cover of Willy Nelson’s country classic, ‘Crazy’.

Its four tracks linger with an organic undercurrent that sits easy after ‘Crazy’. ‘Kissy Kissy’, which originally appeared on 2003’s ‘Keep On Your Mean Side’, is cleaned out, stripped back to a chugging acoustic blues that makes its forlorn lyric, ‘Lord, I’m not satisfied’, more plaintive than ever. Meanwhile ‘Sour Cherry’ does away with the digitally rendered, hi-fi rhythmic pulse of the album version for the rumble of amplified guitar distortion, becoming infinitely more menacing.

But it’s the cover, ‘Crazy’, that cuts the divide between The Kills and their contemporaries deeper than ever. VV doesn’t make a habit of the sentimental, and when she does it’s in a wilfully abstract haze of drugs and nonsense as in ‘Goodnight, Bad Morning’ or ‘Ticket Man’. ‘Crazy’ is weirdly soulful – disarmingly faithful to genuine romantic misery in a way that the duo rarely embrace. It’s also light-years, stylistically, from The Kills’ profuse preoccupation with dirty garage rock. Essentially, it’s these kinds of detours, and not their personal lives and side-projects, which will define The Kills as a seminal musical pairing given time.

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