THE DATSUNSat Spaceland, July 18THE KILLSat the Silverlake Lounge, July 18

Mike Watt calls them clone bands: those groups who wear their influences not just on their sleeves but in their hearts and souls, too. This is a murderously apt observation, especially when applied to the bands Watt usually applies it to — groups with one eye on what‘s happening on the charts, the other on their bank-account statements. But it’s a term with so much sting that it gets bandied about too easily, perhaps because, with those two words, the status of Wise Observer is conferred on the speaker, whose total dismissal of the “clones” owes to hisher highly subjective “higher standards.”

You could watch these two young bands, from different parts of the Earth, playing the same night less than a mile apart, and dismiss them within 10 minutes as clone bands if you wanted to. And that‘d be your loss, for three reasons: a) some things are worth hearing — and seeing — again; b) these bands work in rich idioms that deserve the exploration they’re being given; and c) these guys are special. The Datsuns are a four-piece band of rock & roll gymnasts from New Zealand. They‘re young and enthusiastic, longhaired and Levi’d, and they play rock that owes absolutely everything to ACDC, the Stooges, Radio Birdman, the Ramones, the Hellacopters and so on. They are not punks on a kitsch trick, taking the piss, but they‘re not idea-deficient clones either. At Spaceland, in the face of a crowd that was either too industrybot-heavy or simply too shocked by the band’s ‘70s’80s Sunset Strip antics to appreciate what they were witnessing, the Datsuns put on a show to remember: One particularly tiny guitarist wandered into the audience several times, midsong, playing guitar; the other was on top of the amplifier stacks at one point. They have songs with titles — “Fink for the Man,” “Hootchie Mama,” “Motherfucker From Hell,” etc. — as good as the ensemble plays their riffs and melodies. This was the best meat ‘n’ potatoes, red-blooded rock & roll performed by skinny, charismatic young guys I‘ve witnessed in eons.

The Kills are a duo, a self-proclaimed lawless, left-field Bonnie and Clyde of rock & roll. The British dude (code name: Hotel) triggers the drum machine, plays droning, bug-eyed Velvets-blues guitar and sings in a monotone. The American chick (code name: VV) plays guitar sometimes, hangs her long hair like a lampshade across her face, and sings like Chrissie Hynde crossed with PJ Harvey and Royal Trux’s Jennifer Herema: sass and bourbon, croons and sighs. They‘ve played together for less than a year and already have several songs that sound like deserved radio hits: hot stuff with grooves, builds and explosive choruses. Live, VV and Hotel play like one of the great rock & roll couples — locking stares, making motions and sounds charged with private meaning, etc. — but even Ike and Tina (and Neil and Jennifer, Iggy and Bowie, Kurt ’n‘ Courtney) never performed regularly as a duo. The Kills do this, taking the stakes higher, making everything that much edgier, pushing the audience into voyeur territory. Watching the Kills bumping and grinding for each other with such joy and abandon, I felt like one of those fans at Toronto’s baseball stadium who a few years ago were treated to a midgame sex show by a couple going at it in their private hotel room above the SkyDome‘s outfield fence, unaware that the entire stadium could see what they were doing. Those fans didn’t avert their eyes: They cheered. It didn‘t matter how many times they’d done it, or seen it — good sex was still something to be celebrated.

And so is good music. Right?

LA Weekly