At least their live material kills

By Jon Garrett

The Kills / Butcher Holler / Radio Vago

@The Silverlake Lounge,

Los Angeles

July 18

It was estrogen overload at the Silverlake Lounge on Thursday evening. The bill featured three bands fronted by women and the first opener, Radio Vago, had an all-female lineup. It’s no secret that rock n’ roll, especially that of the indie-rock persuasion, is a horribly sexist institution. So I’m happy to report that there was a very healthy turnout for such an x-chromosome-laden rotation, not to mention the fact that it was a late show on a work night.

Radio Vago are a very promising local group, heavy on the gothic aesthetic and dance-inflected grooves. Throughout their quick, razor-sharp half-hour set, singer Adrienne Pearson acted like a woman possessed, contorting her body into all sorts of unlikely positions. Meanwhile, the band provided competent rhythmic accompaniment, even if they seemed a little static in comparison to their energetic front woman. The band did sound a little overly familiar at times. While there were no completely overt nods to long-dead new wave bands and post-punk luminaries, there was a tacit indebtedness to them. Still, there were enough quality moments—rehashed or not—to keep the assembled throng engaged. If the group keeps it up and puts as much pep into the performances as their lead singer does, they’ll make a nice opening act for The Faint one day. Make of that what you will.

Following Radio Vago was Butcher Holler, another band heavy on the rock attitude and style. The lead seductress donned a feather cap and appeared to enjoy looking the part of the lascivious rock queen. But, unfortunately, unlike their predecessors, Butcher Holler didn’t have a tune throughout their brief but all-too-long set. Beyond the thick rumble of the bass, I couldn’t tell you what song they were playing, let alone the style of music. The howler of Butcher Holler did her best to entertain the audience, but I’m sad to say that a member of the audience to whom she relinquished the microphone upstaged her with the following joke:

Q: What does 90-year-old pussy taste like?

A: Depends.

And that, folks, was the highlight of Butcher Holler’s set.

Now, a brief history on the night’s headliners, The Kills. They’re a duo who go by the names of VV (the woman) and Hotel (the guy). One’s from England, the other’s from the States (I forget which is which) and they decided to get together and make some music about a year ago. They wear dark colors. They don’t have time for silly things like basses. They’ve got their guitars, which are tuned to sound like tin cans being thrown against broken glass, and a drum machine. And oh yeah, they have sunglasses clipped to their shirtfronts, you know, in case they should ever happen to go out in daylight.

To tell you the truth, I hadn’t expected much out of The Kills, which is probably why I wound up staggering out of the club trying to catch my breath. Their EP, which I got a week before, has exactly one tonsil-shredding, cut-your-heart-out-and-serve-it-on-a-plate tune in “Cat Claw.” It’s the kind of monstrosity that makes the White Stripes and Moldy Peaches sound like they’re out for an afternoon stroll on Rodeo Drive. Sadly, the rest of the songs never quite live up to the scuzz-errific opening gambit, and instead come off like Elastica out late binge-drinking with the Moldy Peaches.

But my expectations received a full frontal assault on Thursday night. By the second song, The Kills are mock fucking onstage. Hotel is panting and VV is gasping, sweat is dripping from the bottoms of the guitars. But this isn’t sex or, God forbid, making love… it’s proper fucking. Any shred of doubt is promptly erased when they reach the chorus of the aforementioned “Cat Claw,” which has VV begging, “I want it,” while Hotel sinisterly responds: “Got it.” The rapid-fire exchange instantly qualifies as the most sexually explicit moment this writer has ever witnessed without actually taking part. VV is expertly going through the motions, but it’s unclear whether she’s actually enjoying herself. She’s certainly uncomfortable, as she performs the entire set with her bangs hanging in front of her face. Whether or not she’s genuinely enjoying herself seems beside the point. This isn’t music about feeling or emotions, but pure carnal desires. And both VV and Hotel appear to be experts on the subject.

But perhaps the evening’s most welcome surprise was the songs. Apparently The Kills forgot to put the best tracks on the EP – the standout tunes that I heard were all new to me. I guess that’s all the more reason to have high hopes for the debut album. If their full-length comes close to approaching the intensity and bare-knuckle brawn they displayed at The Silverlake, expect one of finest LPs of the nü-garage era.