The Kills

No Wow (RCA)

Despite the negative connotations of the word, bands depend on tension to function. For many, this just means that the natural push and pull of intragroup relations drives their muse. But as anyone in Fleetwood Mac or the White Stripes can attest to, chemistry -- specifically, the romantic spark mingling with the musical one -- often induces creativity that subsequently leads to superior songwriting.

Although the duo of VV and Hotel of the Kills denied their romance ad nauseam in the aftermath of the Kills' debut, Keep on Your Mean Side, the bluesy garage crackling of the disc revealed an undeniably electric sexual spark between the two. This intangible undercurrent is missing from the Kills' follow-up album, No Wow, although the fundamental elements that made Mean so seductive remain: Grinding guitars shudder with distortion, VV emotes with a PJ Harvey-like snarl, and brief pulses of electronic rhythms dot the sleazy rock landscape. The difference here is that the intensity of Wow isn't driven by raw physical need, but an emotional one. While this renders a handful of songs somewhat nondescript, others are far more successful because of this nuance -- like the softened "Rodeo Town," the offspring of a Pretenders/Jesus and Mary Chain love affair.