The Kills and the Horrors both have a lot in common: generically cool band names, hefty internet buzz, unoriginal sounds, the promotion of style over substance. The former have better songs, the latter were marginally better live, but overall it was one of the worst rock shows I’ve seen in ages.
Some friends of mine wanted to see the Kills and I was not opposed. I have followed them, though not closely, for as long as they’ve been around. I liked some of their early material — “Hitched” is a great song — and I like some of their new stuff too — “Black Balloon” is the best song off their last album and they deserve some success with it. But as we watched them play, I and my bunch of aged, over-30 music-fan friends started to roll our eyes and gradually lose interest in the set. I guess using drum-machine tracks is part of their shtick, but playing at a club like the 930 a band really needs to play real instruments. I spent half the set watching the guitar guy and trying to figure out if he was really playing everything or what; trying to figure out if there was a bass track playing or what; wondering if there was gonna be an Ashlee Simpson moment or what. I don’t understand why moderately successful bands think they can play shows without a real band. I can see it when you are just starting out — it might be even pretty cool. But at a certain level of success, where you are on the cover of magazines and such, you have to figure out whether you’re playing rock and roll or singing karaoke. Apparently the Kills picked the karaoke route. Eh. Some other good bands also go down the same route, to some extent (see: Blonde Redhead, and my beloved Raveonettes), but this was the worst offense in this category I can remember. I can only say that there are good financial and logistical reasons not to have a real band, but as a fan, I feel ripped off anytime backing tracks start being piped in.
The moment when we started to file out the door was during the encore, where they butchered “Pale Blue Eyes” and we were like — “why can’t they just play it straight with two guitars, and no dumb drum machine?” It’s about the easiest song in the world, I’m sure they could pull it off fine.
The crowd seemed pretty pleased, though, I guess that is enough to keep this kind of thing happening. Nestor Diaz at DCist seemed to like it. And for what it’s worth here is a video of “Black Balloon”:
Opener the Horrors were not bad. I would describe them as “heroin-rock” — angsty post-punks. They reminded me a lot of Interpol, they reminded another friend of the Chameleons. So yeah, dark post-punk. I’ll check out some of their music sometime. They get a passing grade unlike the disappointing Kills. Luckily it was an early show so there was plenty of time to drink away the agony over at DC9 afterwards.