By Dave Fountinelle | firstname.lastname@example.org
What if Joan Jett sang on Hole’s iconic 1994 album “Live Through This?” This was the question that sprung to mind halfway through “Rabbit,” the first track on LA-based Kills Birds sophomore album, “Married.” Like Jett, singer Nina Ljeti’s vocal delivery seamlessly blends punk aggression, pop sensibility, and rock n’ roll attitude over a raw, guitar-heavy soundtrack straight out of the ’90s. Her voice shoves to the front like a pissed-off teenager pushing through the crowd to get to the stage. “I could have tanked you, ended you… But I’m not like the other girls,” Ljeti scowls. On the next song, “Cough Up Cherries,” the 90’s grunge throwback vibes are even more potent. Ljeti’s voice channels the best parts of Hole’s Courtney Love, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, and Jessicka from Jack Off Jill. And surging behind Ljeti’s vocal gut punches like crashing waves are Jacob Loeb’s raw, heavy, layered guitar riffs. These two elements combine to form a more Gen X sound than Eddie Vedder in flannel, stage-diving into a vat of Jones Soda at Lollapalooza.
It would come as no surprise then that Gen X icon and the unofficial “cool uncle” of rock n roll, Dave Grohl, hand-picked Kills Birds to open for his band, The Foo Fighters. After personally inviting the band to record “Married” at his recording studio, Studio 606, he offered them the opening slot for the Foo’s west coast tour dates. The December 9th show in Fresno was their last date on tour, and Kills Birds delivered a send-off performance that firmly established themselves as a band to watch heading into 2022.
Kicking off their live set with “Rabbit,” Kills Birds launched into an energetic, bare-bones set that showcased their new album, along with a couple of songs from their self-titled debut. Ljeti strode confidently across the huge Save Mart Center stage with a rock star presence. The front of the stage belonged to Ljeti as she pumped her fist, jumped, stomped, and commanded the audience’s attention. Loeb’s heavy, grunge-gaze guitar riffs carried her powerful vocal performance with a dark, brooding urgency that transported the crowd back to a time when MTV actually played music videos. As their set and their whirlwind stint on the Foo Fighters tour concluded, Ljeti gushed to the packed house, “you guys have been absolutely amazing!” And judging from the response of the crowd, the feeling was mutual.
Kills Birds has accomplished something truly impressive. They have managed the unlikely feat of capturing the sound and fury of 90’s grunge while also delivering it in a way that’s still completely relevant and fresh. “Married” is an album about heartbreak, uncertainty, and devotion. It should come as no surprise that it was recorded during the peak of the pandemic, as those thematic elements also reflect the band’s own experiences during the recording process. First, heartbreak, as the pandemic brought the world to a halt just as the band was preparing for a breakout performance at the South by Southwest festival. Second, uncertainty about the future as shutdowns devastated the music industry. Lastly, devotion – both to their music and each other – that inspired and motivated the band while they worked in the studio. The result is a beautiful and brilliant album that is sad and hopeful, angry and tender.
While thanking Kills Birds during his set, Dave Grohl told the Fresno crowd, “We don’t pick a band to open for us unless we fucking like them. We like Kills Birds, and we want you to like them too.”
So, listen to uncle Dave. He knows what he’s talking about.