Boy Kill Boy
@ Sheffield Leadmill
As Boy Kill Boy took the stage, the dust was still settling from local support act the Ultra High Rollers (if I heard right), who had ripped through a half hour set of high octane kick ass rock n roll antics, fronted by the lovechild of Will Self, Iggy Pop and Don Quixote. With a loucheness that is all the rage thanks to those wacky libertine types, he projected so much into the audience in the Leadmill’s back room that he actually ended up flat on his back amongst us, writhing and squawking. He was, if nothing else, impossible to ignore, and if his comrades can back him up with some memorable tunes (it was kind of hard to tell on first hearing), they will be back for more.
The first thing to notice about “Boy Kill Boy”, a “hotly tipped” four piece from London, is their hair. These guys have clearly been investing in their barnets, and no doubt the rider backstage was chock full of Wella products and some serious Vidal Sassoon gear. As they emerged onstage through a cloud of hairspray, I wasn’t sure what kind of noise they would kick out. “Tonight Matthew, we are going to be… The Killers with better haircuts”.
In between visits to Toni & Guy, they have clearly been practising their instruments, and they confidently belted out a facsimile of something vaguely hip to an underwhelmed crowd. First single “Suzie” (?) was catchy enough, as is next single “Back Again”. And there was no shortage of effort on stage. Apart, that is, from the singer who, in contrast to Iggy Self, seemed content to flop around like a lethargic Robert Smith of the Cure up past his bedtime; for a front man, his persona barely made it off the front of the stage. Equally disconcerting was the bass player who felt it necessary to swing his bass around and eyeball the audience with a kind of “Look at me, I’m in ‘the next big thing’ and I’m cooool” look on his face. I begged to differ.
So to the music. Think The Killers. Think The Bravery. Think “we’ve watched too many documentaries about the 80s”. But the thing about the 80s is that they happened about 20 years ago, and the glossiness is what tends to be remembered and celebrated. But even whilst popular culture was embracing the superficial, and revelling in consumer gains, guitar bands on genuinely independent record labels were pushing a counter cultural agenda. At a certain point in the BKB set, I found myself imagining where Johnny Marr would take one of the tired guitar lines, and what Morrissey would make of the opportunity to tell one of his stories of aching unfulfilment to us all. Granted, few bands can compete with the Smiths, but I had thought that just maybe the “Boy Kill Boy” moniker would suggest a frisson of homoerotic energy. Or a smidgeon of originality. Or just something slightly unexpected. But no, I couldn’t hear any lyrics, so I was left with a set that seems to be all about looking good in a familiar kind of way, and communicating this with a borrowed sound.
It might be OK to reference the 80s now and then (every good band must know its history and its potential place in the pop Parthenon), but uninspiring impersonation of a current band who themselves are inspired by the 80s just will not do. I don’t want to sound like someone’s Grandpa, but for me, The Killers are just a poor person’s New Order, and Boy Kill Boy are just a poor person’s Killers. That makes them pretty poor. Watch them make a dent on the charts, and appear on Jools Holland, but remember that they don’t matter in the slightest.