On ‘Little Bastards,’ The Kills Sling Out B-Side & Rarities From Its Early Years (ALBUM REVIEW)

The Kills’ first album since 2016’s Ash & Ice is a collection of B-Sides and rarities chronicling the duo’s early career. Little Bastards is a lengthy collection of rare Kills tracks that shows off the band’s inventiveness, grit, and passion. With twenty songs dating from the band’s 2002 inception through 2009, covers and original songs left on the cutting floor, Little Bastards captures Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince at their raw, fiery best.  

The album showcases The Kills’ unique blend of intense garage rock, soulful melodies, and pop rhythms, the songs built as much around drum machine loops as Hince’s grimy riffing or  Mosshart’s vocals. As with the best B-side albums, Little Bastards boasts a diverse collection, spotlighting the band’s various influences.

Many songs find The Kills at full swagger, such as the sneering strut of “Superpowerless.” Hince’s distorted harmonics and scratches enhance the walking riff as the song slowly builds in intensity. “Take the weight off my mind; I got enough to slow you down,” Mosshart sings over the thump of muted strings. The frenetic beat of “Raise Me,” a previously unreleased demo, propels the song as Hince lays down discordant noises. “You see the highway man hides his dirty bands but his gaze is set on me,” Mosshart sings, Hince’s guitar screeching. 

At other times, Little Bastards displays The Kills’ often overlooked softer side, with four acoustic tracks, including a straightforward rendition of the blues standard “Forty Four” and the frantic acoustic stomper “Magazine.” Even when playing an acoustic, Hince’s strings rattle and buzz, his dirty style coming through. One of the best soft songs on the album is the cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “I Call It Art.” Mosshart’s voice, a beautiful soul croon, harmonizes well with Hince’s melodic arpeggios, though a rumbling bassline adds tension beneath the song’s surface. 

The Kills’ strong blues influence is best delivered on the cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You.” Though the song has been covered so many times it’s almost a cliché, this rendition might be the best. Mosshart’s vocals, ranging from soft vibrato to pained howls, give the song a more sinister feel. The obsessive nature of the lyrics take on a darker meaning, Mosshart sounding unhinged as she shrieks “watch out, I ain’t lying.”

Throughout Little Bastards, The Kills unleashes its innovative alchemy of fuzzed-out blues with a punk attitude. In the aggressive “Night Train,” Mosshart longs for oblivion. “Sleep tight on the night train, no pain,” she sings, Hince’s propulsive palm muting giving way to an explosion of dissonant ringing strings. “Won’t a couple of years do some good for you?”    

Most of Little Bastards consists of songs that were recorded for an album but didn’t make the final cut. While many, such as the swirling pop of “Blue Moon,” and the melodic ballad “I Call It Art,” don’t fit the general tone of the average Kills album, none of the songs sound like filler. Each of these Bastards earns its spot on the album as a fine representation of the eclectic influences of the band.     

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