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Sahara Hotnights: Kiss & TellKiss & Tell (2004)
Sony Music Entertainment
Reviewer Rating: 3.5
Contributed by: greg0rbgreg0rb
(others by this writer | submit your own)
On their major label debut, the four ladies of Sahara Hotnights feel the need to fit in. While their breakthrough Jennie Bomb was tough, gritty and exciting punk suggesting The Clash and early Blondie influences, “Kiss and Tell”, with it’s bouncy feel and poppier exterior suggest something more along the lines of The Cars. Their bio lists them among the girls’ listening material while on tour, as well as The Go-Go’s and Cheap Trick. The pop rock leaked into their brains and affected them: “We decided we wanted a bigger, poppier sound, hoping to record an album that makes you want to dance.” They sure did it, but with the state of popular indie music it sounds like they’re ditching their rough sound to ride the coattails of other up-and-coming dance bands like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and The Faint. Even their brothers in crime The Hives went in a Devo-type direction adding some synths and dancier beats to their repertoire, but the boys didn’t give up any aggression. The girls do, but all of this aside, the results are surprisingly pleasant. After reading harsh reviews in AP and some other places, I feared the worst but didn’t get it.
The album makes you bob your head from beginning to end, so mission accomplished. “Who Do You Dance For?” starts it off strong with a concise and catchy dance song, very different from the fist-pumping rage of Jennie Bomb’s opener “Alright Alright”. There are bits of their old songwriting leftover in harder tunes like “Walk on the Wire”, with its fuzzy lead guitar and gang vocals in the chorus, but even those tunes are masked a little behind the big budget production (produced by Pelle Gunnerfeldt who did the new Hives as well). The vocals are clear in the mix taking the guitars out of the forefront, and synths make quite a few appearances like on “Empty Heart” with a few blips and swooshing sweeps, adding to the 80’s feel they were going for. They don’t go nuts with the keys fortunately; they only appear sparsely in a handful of the songs.
The new sound aside, I enjoyed every track, but thought there were no obvious “singles”, the same way I felt about their preceding effort. The previously mentioned opener and “Empty Heart” could be contenders as well as “Nerves”, a tune that could have fit on Jennie, or “Stay/Stay Away”, a very Cars tune with synths harmonizing guitars and handclaps abound, and maybe “The Difference Between Love and Hell” with its pumped up disco beat to make you stomp along. Wait, I just found that “Hot Night Crash” is actually the first single, and that’s a good one too with an intense tempo and some shout-along backup vocals. Well that’s like half the tracks so I think I have proven my point: This is a solid album, and if you can get over the change of direction, you can see this is still the same group as before. They are not riding coattails; they still have their own sound but they just want to rock you a little differently this time around.
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