On 2002's Jennie Bomb, the ladies of Sahara Hotnights came on like Joan Jett's little sisters: tough, strutting, and leather-clad sexy. Being Swedes, they were tagged as the female Hives (even though their sound was rooted much more in '70s punk than '60s garage), and they rode the "rock revival" wave all the way to year-end critics' lists. The ladies were certainly one of the highlights of that overhyped scene, but anyone expecting Kiss and Tell to reprise Bomb's heavy riffing or the babe-powered bravado of its single, "Alright, Alright (Here's My Fist, Where's the Fight?)," is going to be a little disappointed.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Kiss and Tell is tighter, slicker, and more immediate than either Jennie Bomb or its follow-up, C'mon Let's Pretend (belatedly released stateside in 2003). Perhaps it's because SN is chasing that elusive commercial radio hit, or maybe it's the major label thing, or it could just be third-album maturity, but this album reins in the riffage for a more polished pop sound. No, the ladies still haven't adjusted their delinquent-chick attitude -- one listen to "Stupid Tricks" will dispel any notion of that -- but they have opened the music up to a wider array of influences. "Who Do You Dance For?" is full of vintage girl-group pathos and a surprising vulnerability. "Hot Night Crash," the first single, sounds like an unearthed Nikki and the Corvettes track. "Mind Over Matter" is propelled by a twitchy new-wave guitar lick. And "The Difference Between Love and Hell" sports a four-on-the-floor beat and synth flourishes that might actually seduce you onto the dance floor.
But no matter how you dress them up, Sahara Hotnights still consists of four girls from the garage, and that primal power lies at the core of these songs. In other words, they'll hit you, and it'll feel like a kiss.