White girl and pale limey buy drum machines, save the blues

It’s been two years since The Kills’ debut CD, “Keep On Your Mean Side,” was released and going by the cover and liner notes of “No Wow,” the trans-Atlantic blues-rock duo has been spending most of that time taking high-contrast pictures of each other and shopping for cute new thrift-store outfits. “No Wow” doesn’t sound like it took up too much of their preening time, but that’s a good thing. The music sounds fresh, like it was recorded while the iron was still hot and the ideas were brand new.

It actually sounds less polished than the ragged glory of “Mean Side.” The duo wisely dropped the annoying spoken word interludes that cut their otherwise stellar debut off at the knees, along with their stage names and the fictional biographical mystique they once fostered. Alison Mosshart’s vocals sound more confident and less showy, while on the musical side of things, Jamie Hince has taken his guitar playing to an even more simplistic realm. “No Wow” also relies less on Hince’s live drumming, instead turning more toward tiny drum machine sounds and metronomic sputters. This leads to a smaller sound, but it really works with the intimate feeling that The Kills’ songwriting and production creates.

The band’s greatest asset is its total do-it-yourself mode of operation, where only Hince and Mosshart are in the creative process. If they got a drummer, something would definitely be lost. On “Keep On Your Mean Side,” Hince’s live drumming didn’t interfere too much, but strangely enough, the increasing reliance on electronic drums creates an even more human and organic element to The Kills’ sound, making “No Wow” a true progression.