The Killers

Albums Reviews


Hot fuss- Got Number 43 of rolling stone top 100 of the 00's                                                                                  

So what if they were from Vegas, not the U.K., and the year was 2004, not 1983? The Killers were determined to be Duran Duran anyway. Hot Fuss was a blast: Irresistible synth-bolstered grooves and lyrics about dancing, jealousy and gender-bending, blasted out by Brandon Flowers in the world's greatest bad British accent. A couple of years later, Flowers would develop a Springsteen fixation and a preposterous mustache. But Hot Fuss was the Killers at their sleazy best, singing about boyfriends who look like girlfriends, and dragging dance rock from the hipster fringes back to the down-and-dirty mainstream.

Day & Age

Like their hometown of Las Vegas, the Killers have a flair for anything supersize, sparkly and over-the-top: soaring synth-pop operas, multipart arena-rock anthems, "Bohemian Rhapsody"-style choirs. So it makes sense that, after 2006's massively ambitious Sam's Town, their third studio album expands their scope even further, adding subtle world-music accents to their glittery New Wave anthems fitting for a band bent on international megastardom. Produced by dance maven Stuart Price, Day & Age broadens the Killers' sound with dub-inflected grooves ("Joyride"), Caribbean-style steel drums ("I Can't Stay") and a chanted intro that recalls South Africa's Lady­smith Black Mambazo ("This Is Your Life") though it's performed by the band itself.

When the Killers really push the theatrics, they shine: "Spaceman" re-imagines New Order's "Temptation" as an alien-abduction anthem with a great singalong chorus. And the rousing "A Dustland Fairytale" moves from somber pianos to an orchestral conclusion so epic, you half-expect some kind of fairy godmother to swoop in and save singer Brandon Flowers. Too bad all that drama sometimes weighs down Flowers he's developed quite a persecution complex. "Run and tell your friends I'm losing touch," he scoffs on "Losing Touch," and by "Neon Tiger" he's giving himself pep talks: "They'll strategize and name you/But don't you let them tame you!" Relax, dude. With imagination like this, you're doing fine.

Sam' Town                                                                                                                                                                 Rock music in the 21st century has been subject to an unprecedented emotional arms race of Cold War proportions. Displaced from its traditional role of party music by dance and hip-hop, rock has focused more than ever on introspection, aiming for resonant feelings rather than escapist fun. Hence, pop-punk has given way to emo, hard rock acts dust off the power ballad to get airplay, and groups like Coldplay and Green Day fill stadiums with soul-searching anthems. It's only natural that the emotional ante would be rapidly rising, until it reaches the climax of triggering arena-rock's nuclear option: The Boss.

The Killers would seem unlikely participants in the battle to protect The Great American Rock Song, having drawn more comparisons to Duran Duran than Bob Seger on their awkwardly-titled debut Hot Fuss. But for all the band's synth-pop dressings, their greatest success, both artistically and commercially, was with "Mr. Brightside", a woe-is-me epic that skillfully deployed the group's flimsy new-wave organ to shift the song into a second gear of cinematic sorrow. No dummies, the Killers choose to stay on the horse that got them to the A-list with Sam's Town, spending an entire album looking to build on that track's unabashed glory and so drafting as their muse someone who knows a bit about glory, one Bruce Springsteen.


They can be taught! What separates the Killers from contemporaries such as the Bravery and Panic! at the Disco-- and what will ensure an audience when those bands have fully fossilized-- is that the Vegas quartet can learn and adapt. While they evolved out of the Strokes' 1970s guitar strut and a flyover approximation of that band's New York-centric sense of style, the Killers have since managed to move up the evolutionary ladder, developing actual tools and displaying the capacity for reason. Sam's Town, their second rung, predicted opposable thumbs and verbal language in the band's future. The band used Springsteen to poke out even more drama from new wave, cross-breeding two very different species-- the Boss' concentrated working-class rock with effete British new wave. Surprise: It sometimes worked.

On their way forward, the Killers offer a glance backward with Sawdust, a hodgepodge of everything they've tried in the past as well as a few things they'll no doubt try again in the future. With its vague title and ludicrous artwork, this catch-all gathers outtakes, B-sides, covers, Jacques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke remix of "Mr. Brightside", and a dorky hidden track that reveals their debt to Stone Temple Pilots. What the Killers haven't learned is how to dial it back: These songs, just like the albums they were recorded for, are busy with sounds and effects, as if they are aiming to deploy every studio knob or realize all of their harebrained ideas at once. Opener "Tranquilize" sounds weighted with stuff-- the typical drum-bass-guitar, of course, but also more guitars, synths both ominous and light, a children's choir, Lou Reed-- all in service to trite lyrics and bombastic melodies. Likewise, their cover of Joy Division's "Shadowplay" shoots for epic, losing the minimalist menace of the original in a maelstrom of garishly climactic instrumentation.



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