Lizard Kings

Is Louis XIV just another hot-to-trot retro rock band, or something far more sinister?

With a couple of tours with the Killers under their hot little belts and the release of their new album, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, the four guys who make up Louis XIV -- singer/guitarists Jason Hill and Brian Karscig, drummer Mike Maigaard, and bassist Jimmy Armbrust -- have got most of the retro rock world wrapped around their dirty little fingers, especially die-hard groupies the U.S. music press.

"The Best Little Secrets Are Kept is loaded with a raft of inspired songs that burst out of your speakers like they were on fire," says All Music Guide. And Blenderraves, "They exalt in a catchy send-up of swaggering retro-rock sleaze." Meanwhile, in just over six months, the band has gone from packing Café Du Nord to packing Slim's to packing the Fillmore; this week's concert marks its sixth S.F. appearance since December.

But growing fame and even critical praise don't necessarily make for a band worth listening to, especially when said band's "retro-rock sleaze" is more than a bit sketchy. The rest of us needn't be quite so gullible, nor so susceptible to Louis XIV's seductive charms. So then, in the interest of preserving the reputations of rock fans everywhere, I interviewed singer/guitarist/producer/God's-latest-gift-to-women Jason Hill and came up with the following seven reasons not to jump right into the sack with Louis XIV and all its many acolytes. Enjoy.

No. 1: Desperation Does Not Equal Inspiration

To paraphrase the immortal words of Cheap Trick, the band that may be Louis XIV's spiritual dad (deadbeat, of course), San Diego's self-professed Sun Kings really want you to want them. One track that claims a prowess so enticing it'll have you "[pledging] allegiance to the united states of me" is kind of cute. But after seven of these, the band starts to sound desperate -- and that kind of stank is pretty hard to wash off, no matter how many cold showers you take.

No. 2: White Is Right, Unless It's Wrong

Did you know that "chocolate girl" is considered a "very affectionate" term by most black women? Neither did I. But according to Hill, that's the case; he insists that if we find that term (or its kissing cousin "little Asian friend") offensive, we're "probably white people that think that that's insulting to a black girl." Apparently we simply don't know much about what makes Asian- and African-American girls feel all soft and fuzzy inside.

No. 3: Louis XIV Likes It a Little Too Rough

The nastiest of Louis XIV's not-so-well-kept little secrets can't be smoothed over with sweet nothings. When asked what he thinks of criticism that the album is sexist, Hill replies, "I don't buy it. I mean, I wrote an album that is about affection for women, you know?" He then goes on to tell me about how "spunky" the female characters in his songs are. Personally, I never feel spunkier or more loved than when a guy includes me in a multicultural laundry list of girls he wants to nail and tells me he wants to "wind you up and make you crawl to me" or "squeeze you away until you bleed." HOT!! Pair that with the chipper, Fab Four-iffic "Letter to Dominique," featuring a heroine who just wants "a strangle or a mouthful of gasoline"; a sizzling hot album cover depicting a woman enticingly playing dead on a bathroom floor so the band could print its track list on her bare ass; and a cute theme about how cool it is to keep "secrets," and you've got yourself a tender little ode to rape. Aw, how sweet!

No. 4: "I Bring My Mother Flowers" Is the Oldest Line in the Book

Hill seems like a polite, affable guy who perhaps really does see the leering falsetto he lends the female characters in his songs as just, according to him, a playful imitation of his girlfriend's drunken "adorable gibberish." But that renders him and his mates' foppish, derivative brand of misogyny all the more dangerous, because their charm makes it far too easy to disregard their language as mere schoolboy prattle -- and to ignore exactly what they're trying to say. Is the real Louis XIV Jason Hill, who "[brings his] mother flowers every time I see her," or the guy who wants his conquest to "roll over/ Do me a trick"? Hill writes off any affront to listeners' sensibilities as the result of a "repressed society" in which "people get all offended [when] ... somebody spunkily talks about sex." But there's a difference between sexy and sexist, and most of us aren't as familiar with the subtle nuances of it as Hill seems to be. I am not making a PMRC-style call for censorship; I just have a longing for rock that's more responsible -- or, at the very least, more arousing.

No. 5: If Keith Richards Jumped Off a Bridge, Louis XIV Would, Too

At this point, many of you are probably itching to write a scathing letter to the editor about how rock 'n' roll is, by definition, rebelliously offensive. You've got a list of the usual suspects going, right? The gods in whose randy, button-pushing footprints Louis XIV now prances? Elvis, the Stones, AC/DC, even the Beatles, and don't forget (by extension) Snoop Dogg and Robert Johnson. Not so fast. Rebellion is a crucial, infectious part of rock, yes. But the regurgitation of worn-out, systematically insulting clichés is not subversive -- it's just kind of mean-spirited, and more than a little pathetic. Even the least derogatory of Secrets' sexxxxy songs are obvious efforts to cash in on the past. I mean, an oversexed ode to a scorching schoolmarm ("Hey Teacher")? That's so 1984.

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