They might not be from 18th century Versailles, but that doesn’t stop Louis XIV from dressing as if they were. The eyeliner-wearing, faux-British accent-sporting members of Louis XIV hail from the faraway land of San Diego, Calif. In 2003, singer/guitarist Jason Hill, who produced The Best Little Secrets Are Kept on a 16-track tape recorder; guitarist/singer/pianist Brian Karscig; and drummer Mark Maigaard bolted from alt-rock group Convoy in search of a change. They teamed up with bassist James Armbrust, and Louis XIV was born. After playing a few local gigs, the trash-talking quartet had an idea for a concept record about a boy who begins to think he’s Louis XIV. DJs in San Diego and the United Kingdom began playing some of their new material in high rotation. Flattered and inspired, the band decided to name themselves after their inspiration.
As self-professed fans of Las Vegas natives The Killers, Louis XIV were thrilled when the boys from Sin City took them on tour last summer before the quartet was signed to Atlantic. That exposure, paired with the publicity from EPs released by their own Pineapple Recording Group, garnered major-label attention.
Unhappy with the sound of current music in the United States and armed with a concept for an album, the band members jetted to Paris to record their first full-length major-label debut. The Best Little Secrets Are Kept bristles with raunchy, sleazy lyrics layered over garage riffs. “Illegal Tender” whines “I’ll tease you with a knife until you’re screaming for your life … Can I spend you up?” “Paper Doll” and “Finding Out True Love Is Blind” are even more bloated with double entendres: “Sing me a song / Then bang me like the girls in Hong Kong … Politics are so much better when there’s sex,” “You know it’s the girl in the front with the tight pants I really wanna shake up … Tie you up until you call to me.” While lyrics of this sort are witty, they begin to lose their edge when used to excess.
There is no doubt that this album is laden with feet-tapping beats. But halfway through Secrets, the listener may feel a case of déjà vu coming on: Louis XIV seem to emulate many other artists with their raw sound and contagious rhythms. At first they bring to mind The White Stripes, as both bands employ archaic recording methods. Hill’s glam-rock, badass persona, along with his style of speak-singing, uncannily recalls The New York Dolls’ frontman David Johansen. Additionally, the boys from San Diego sound shockingly like The Sex Pistols on the song “God Killed The Queen” — not to mention the shamelessly similar song title.
Even though The Best Little Secrets Are Kept may sound repetitive at times — try counting the number of tracks with handclaps — it’s an overall success. Louis XIV’s major-label debut surely deserves some praise.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars