The Smoking Kills
@ The Kasbah, Coventry 02/04/11
The Kasbah doesnt know what hit it. First on the bill, unveiling
their new lineup and raw, stripped down sound, The Smoking Kills demolish
the place. This is a big gig for them, their biggest gig so far, supporting
The Sunshine Underground and Dave McCabe, a man who seems to be known
to everyone, including his own mother, as That Guy From The Zutons.
They take to the stage with understated cool, showing off their new
quasi-military image in a peasouper of dry ice smoke which renders the
band all but invisible. Amazingly, this works in their favour, the fact
that they can barely be seen nicely complementing their hazy, longing
They open with new song Death of a Salesman, featuring some
particularly great spiky guitar from new recruit Rory. He looms out
of the smoke, resplendent in military jacket, staring down at his guitar,
his mop of hair obscuring his face before dissolving out of sight. Thunderous
bass and drums pummel the audience like the sound of distant thunder
while the guitar brings to mind the Pixies at their most jagged. Guitarist
and electric violist (yes, that is a word) Chantal sings beautifully,
her vocals strong and forceful, like a cross between Siouxsie Sioux
and Karen O. Her singing has definitely matured since I last saw the
band, her impassioned vocals adding a new dimension to the uncertainty
and doubt of the lyrics. When she sings theres not another
way or wait, youre not the only one, the desperation
in her delivery is palpable. Strength in the midst of doubt. The Smoking
Kills write songs of desperation and fear, couched in some of the most
uplifting pop music youre likely to hear, a paradox that defines
the band. Songs like Kiddo and Starladen are
so catchy and danceable that its easy to forget about the darkness
of the words theyre singing.
Almost before we know it theyve progressed from the bouncy and
uplifting Kiddo, on which Chantal and lead guitarist Paul
Carter share vocals, the audience joining in with the joyous whats
that kiddo?! of the verses, to the almost menacing grind of Out
of Line, on which their newfound military aesthetic is fully in
evidence in some particularly great parade-ground drumming courtesy
of Charles Redmond, who hits the skins throughout with deceptive nonchalance.
All too quickly theyve blasted through Moving On and
Alone to the sublimely beautiful Starladen,
with which they close the show. It begins with a distinctive angular
guitar solo before the rest of the band explode in like a grenade filled
with glitter. They finish the song with a knowingly absurd Guns n
Roses-style Big Rawk Outro, leaving the audience baying for more. Chantal
turns, smiles regretfully and then theyre gone.
Its clear that the band have matured since the last time I saw
them. Armed with a darker sound and a tighter lineup, the Smoking Kills
have reached their peak. Despite the comparisons which litter this review
like cigarette butts in the gutter, by this stage The Smoking Kills
have fully transcended their influences and sound like no-one but themselves.
Every song has its own unique character; theyre a band who defy
comparison and categorization, a band you really have to see for yourself.
To put it simply, The Smoking Kills are brilliant, have always been
great and have just hit their top form. Theyre going to be huge,
so go see them in a small venue while you still can.