I remember catching The Killers live just before the album Hot Fuss broke. A small SU size gig that was nonetheless fairly packed, such is the buzz you get with a band just before they are about to break. A quartet from Las Vegas who had successfully studied all things English and fermented a template that encompassed the stylistic and musical aspects of the early to mid eighties new romantic scene. The album came, saw and conquered, a slew of singles passed through and captured our attention. Lean and hungry prowling affairs that were at home at an indie disco or on a live stage, yes Hot Fuss was always going to be a hard act to follow.
So two years on The Killers return with what some might phrase that “difficult second album”. And for those of you who might just be expecting a retread of the debut well I’m afraid I’m going to have to burst a few bubbles right here and right now.
If Hot Fuss was a vibrant prowl down the rain slicked streets of London at night then the sequel Sam’s Town is a ride across America in a car with soft suspension and a bellyful of cheap beer. It seems like The Killers might just have used false promises to batter down the door to our affections with the first album because whatever influences spawned it have been well and truly ditched here.
Gone are the spiky edgy musical soundscapes, replaced with bloated rock soap operas that wouldn’t sound out of place on Bruce Springsteen’s work in the eighties. There are more big riffs here than you can shake a stick at and it starts to sound very much like U2 in places that quite frankly is more than a little disconcerting. Vocally Brandon Flowers pushes himself a little harder this time round, with mixed results. If you listen to the single he whacks up the volume and just about gets away with what he is doing, he does however start to sound a little like Meat Loaf once again is cause for some concern.
Lyrically he’s gone a little broader as well, and you’ve guessed it where’s there is overblown rock there is usually hokey words to go with it. He trollies out every clich? you’ve ever heard about Jesus and the devil, skylines and hurricanes. It’s bloody painful in places.
The band do try to reintroduce some of their trademark synthesisers which served them so well on the first album but alas in the new company they keep it all starts to sound a little cheap and tinny. And the sooner they lay off (or at least bury them in the mix) you find yourself feeling more than a little grateful.
In its favour, the production of the album is quite well handled. It might be the bastard son of flag waving rock but it is suitably bright in sound and in fairness there are a number of songs that do just about pass muster. Alas one of them has already been and gone as the single (When You Were Young) and I suspect that the others (Bones, For Reasons Unknown) might be up for release next.
Alas it kind of makes you wonder where it all went wrong…