Release Date: Nov 24, 2008
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
With his naked ambition, unfashionable political views, propensity to say unbelievably silly things and misguided trousers, Brandon Flowers makes for a brilliant pop star. Extraordinary and genuinely strange, he's exactly the kind of frontman whose band should be headlining Reading or selling out the O2 in hours; the Killers having gone from promising US Anglophiles to one of the UK's biggest draws in four years. It helps that they're preternaturally gifted at writing undeniable pop songs.
Before the release of the Killers’ sophomore album, 2006’s Sam’s Town, Brandon Flowers predicted that it would be “one of the best albums of the last 20 years”. For a band that left many feeling they had not earned their spurs before achieving superstardom, the comment was an irresistible invitation to pummel Flowers for artistic hubris. And many critics did just that, especially since Sam’s Town—while containing some undeniable classics—was an uneven affair, capturing the band juggling diverse influences, sometimes to awkward effect.
Review Summary: "Day & Age" is pretty much the most brilliant, retarded piece of music released this year. Do you like pop albums that are multi-layered for no other reason than to be ridiculous? Then you'll love this. Does anyone really take the Killers seriously? I mean, if Hot Fuss wasn’t enough to convince you, “When You Were Young” off of Sam’s Town should have made everyone and their mother realize Brand Flowers and company are in the business of making ridiculous pop music, seemingly done as though they are writing the greatest song of all time over and over but with that slight wink and nod to denote that they’re in on the joke as well.
For divas, crooners, and tiger tamers of a certain age, Las Vegas is the superlative third act in a long, sequined career. But what does the city mean to a band of sharply tailored twentysomethings whose musical heroes are more New Order than Wayne Newton? On their third album, Vegas-bred foursome the Killers have laid their fingers firmly on the neon-Neverland pulse of their hometown. Amid references to the Sierra Nevadas and ”the heat of the Southwest sun,” singer Brandon Flowers and the band construct an album that is one-third Duran Duran glam (the go-to mode of the Killers’ four-times-platinum debut, 2004’s Hot Fuss), one-third Bono majestic (see slow-burning but surprisingly gratifying 2006 follow-up Sam’s Town), and one-third fresh retro (shades of Roxy Music and Hunky Dory-era Bowie).
To be fair, the success of Brandon Flowers and co. has always relied on their sounding—and looking—a little other. On their chart-topping 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, the Vegas-based band seized on past trends like New Wave and glitzy ’70s/’80s glam rock, applying their own twist, and plenty of eyeliner. It was a surprise coup, but they established themselves as the “the” band of the mid 2000s and seemed poised to take over the music scene.
The Killers' great gift is that they -- and in particular their frontman, Brandon Flowers -- have utterly no recognition of the ridiculous. More than that, they're drawn to the ridiculous, piecing together sounds that don't belong together, reaching far beyond their grasp, aiming for profundity and slipping into silliness. All this weighed the band down mightily on Sam's Town, their convoluted Americana theme park of a sophomore album, all false façades and paper-thin pretension, but on its 2008 sequel, Day & Age, the Killers shrink the canvas and brighten their palette, opting for a big sound over big themes.
After the US sniffed at the Springsteen-esque tales and interesting moustaches of 2006's Sam's Town, Vegas's finest have returned to the Anglophile pop of their 2004 debut. Losing My Touch is a classic Killers anthem with added Roxy Music swagger. However, once Human straps angst to a lager wobble the band gradually exhaust their cooler records in favour of a mad rummage through the DJ box in an 80s Essex disco.
On their third disc, Las Vegas's the Killers rediscover spirited and tight songwriting, something lost on their mopey sophomore release, Sam's Town. They hit it out of the park on Spaceman, a straightforward rocker that continuously tops itself in the melody department, and lead single Human, which will surely get the dancers dancing. Weaker songs near the end dull Day & Age's initial shine, and singer Brandon Flowers suffers from godawful-lyrics syndrome ("Saw Cinderella in a party dress / she was looking for a nightgown").
Though it was never exactly a scene, there was certainly a kind of indie class of '03/'04, a bunch of relatively unassuming bands whose debut albums sold by the truckload, unexpectedly catapulting them into the big time with almost uniformly excruciating results. You know who I’m talking about: there’s Razorlight, kind of like the insouciant rebels who went on to become accountants; Kaiser Chiefs, the class clowns who learned the hard way that they were only popular so long as they were funny; and Keane, the big-faced shy boys who just wanted the cool kids to be nice to them, and – sadly - still do. And finally there’s The Killers, the popular Americans who finished school in the UK, bade a fond farewell to their classmates, and eagerly headed off to see folks back home.
Review Summary: All glitz and no grit makes Brandon a dull boy. Three albums into their career and it’s time to ask the question: How much bigger sounding can The Killers get before they explode? Hot Fuss kicked off their career with danceable beats and an occasional flair for the bombast that made “Somebody Told Me” and “All These Things I’ve Done” irresistibly lovable no matter how heterosexual you were. With the epic expansion into Sam’s Town, the occasional flair grew into a full-fledged allegiance to the grandiose, and before our eyes, The Killers went from a charmingly awkward, New Order-ripping British band to an awkwardly awkward, Springsteen-ripping Americana band, complete with pseudo-cowboy outfits and amateur porn moustaches.
The best albums are the ones that leave you feeling as if you know exactly where the artist is coming from. That's an oversimplification: There are probably terrible albums that make perfectly clear the artists' intent. But with every album I love, I can immediately recall the feeling of intent, urgency and, most important, necessity in the work. In the end, that's the question every artist must answer: Did they need to do it? I can't answer for the Killers regarding Day & Age, but I can guess the answer: Maybe.