The K-Holes are a band from New York City, and you don't need a press release or record review to know it. From the first notes of their sophomore LP Dismania, the grime, depravity, desperation, and sometimes fun of the big city come through in screaming waves. Guitarist/vocalist Jack Hines did some time in the Black Lips before relocating from Atlanta to N.Y.C., but the heat-stroke garage rock of his previous band is relegated to only the faintest of echoes in the K-Holes' sound. Rooted instead in the late-'70s no wave scene (Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, DNA, the Contortions), nods to the swampy twang of the Gun Club or the weirdo stomp of the Cramps are as close to garage as the ten tracks on Dismania get. Explosively disjointed songs are accentuated by Sara Villard's saxophone skronk, and Hines trades off lead vocal duties with demented powerhouse Vashti Windish. Windish pushes out the crowded concrete jungle sentiments with just a hint of leopard-print glamminess. The K-Holes probably represent the underbelly of broke artists, junkies, and hustlers in 2012 as accurately and dangerously as the Velvet Underground did in 1969. Without leaning on their sound at all, the paeans to the roaches, rats, and high rent of "Nightshifter" are a much darker update to Lou Reed's classically seedy street scenes. "Rats" takes it even further, likening a cast of characters to the sewer-dwelling rodents that are omnipresent in Big Apple living. Elsewhere, Windish's howling cries on "Acid" and droning lament on "Numb" recall the most ferocious moments of Lydia Lunch's early days. The in-the-red production matches the band's nihilistic downtown sounds, enveloping these reckless songs of bad decisions and life barely worth living with a palpable danger. The K-Holes' breed of raw rock & roll is a heavy load to bear for the entire duration of an album, with songs tending to sound a little samey by the final quarter of Dismania. By the time album closer "Nothing New" rolls around, Hines wobbles up to the microphone to spit out "I look like a cadaver, every morning after" like a partied-out Idiot-era Iggy Pop. The song stretches on, encapsulating the sonic hangover and frustrated violence of the entire album with absolutely zero resolution. It's a fitting end to an album so indebted to the New York experience, a celebration of all the dead ends, raw nerves, and impossible possibilities deep in the nights of the city that never sleeps.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas