Sahara Hotnights
Kiss And Tell
2004
B-



back when their debut Jennie Bomb came out, a lot of folks would ask me who I thought were hotter, these girls or the Donnas? I’d explain that every Donnas song was a straightforward specific anthem, many covering topics from a relatively untapped perspective, while the Hotnights just regurgitated old garage-rock cliches under a veil of ESL incoherency. A song called “I’m On Top Of Your World”? The album title? What was that about? Plus Spend The Night, the Donnas’ then recently released pop breakthrough, had tighter production and more spirited performances. The response usually was, yeah, but which group is hotter?

The answer was clear until I heard the Swedish quartet’s cover of “Rockaway Beach” on a recent Kill Rock Stars compilation. They rip through the Ramones perennial with such efficient, ruthless vibrancy that I can practically hear them suck in their breath and flip their hair back before leaning toward the mic. I doubt I’ll hear anything foxier all year, despite the welcome resurgence of crotch-oriented nu-wave beginning to pour from modern rock radio. Since speed is the one area the Donnas are lacking, it looked like they might be competition after all.

“Who Do You Dance For”, the opening track to the Sahara’s new album Kiss And Tell, reveals another trick that separates them from the other half-successful Runaways clone: the open-hearted dance-floor shimmy, which the Donnas are currently too aggro to pull off. More Go-Go’s than Blackhearts, the song lets singer Maria Andersson show off her melodic sense, and strong yet frustrated demeanor in the catchiest possible context, coming off like a kid Chrissie Hynde.

While the rest of the album reveals that the increased craft and polish is no fluke, they haven’t quite figured out how to write songs other people might bother to cover. “Walk On A Wire” and “Hot Night Crash” reveal they’re still twisting cliches to no considerable value and every track suffers from Andersson’s ponderings about romantic dysfunction. Where the Donnas offer confident exhortations and definitive declarations, Kiss And Tell is dribbling with foggy contemplation and emotional explanation. If you drank from a plastic beer cup every time you heard a concrete noun here, you wouldn’t have to go back to the keg once. Musically there are some spirited rusty-muffler chugs and lots of prom night shuffles (the more space given to Andersson’s voice—check out her playful coos on “Stay/Stay Away”, the more rewarding it gets) to be found, but in a genre as crowded as theirs, their lyrical lack of definition keeps them from holding on to your imagination. Unless you think they’re hot.



Reviewed by: Anthony Miccio
Reviewed on: 2004-08-12
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