The Killers | Sam’s Town | Island Records
Saying The Killers are grounded is about the same as saying J. Lo is really from the block. Hot Fuss was fun, catchy and released at a time when the rock world needed an indie explosion. While The Killers may not be stuck in one-album wonderland, Sam’s Town is a confusing mix of innovative sound and horrible lyricism.
Sophomore slumps usually suggest a decline in quality or sound. On Sam’s Town, the sound is not necessarily worst, just different. The album feels like an eclectic mixture of everything good and bad in the music scene right now.
The album starts off with – ironically enough – a song about the band getting back to their roots. “Sam’s Town” is basically about hating rumors and “having a sentimental heart.” The sound is quite incomprehensible: a mixture of big ambition and defensive lyrics. Much like the geriatric hotel the album and song are both named for, this song offers nothing of value.
With references to Jesus (“When You Were Young”) and religious pleas, it appears that The Killers have gone from mods to missionaries. In “Why Do I Keep Counting?”, Flowers is asking a certain “father” for help. Questioning his lifestyle and his limitations, this is church music at its finest.
While their lyrics may be a bit arrogant and silly, this album really highlights the theatrics of their music. We can hear trumpets, chimes, choirs… maybe even a circus in the studio. “Bones,” in particular, is a fun ’80s rip off; just imagine a hokey man with big hair playing keyboard. Nevertheless, I’m still trying to figure out if “don’t you want to feel my bones on your bones” is sexy. Not really…
However, “Uncle Johnny” is quite sexy and captivating. The yearning chorus sounds so much like Robert Smith. The vocals are slowed down, highlighting the heavy guitar – it almost sounds like goth rock, but not quite. But the mood is dangerous. At the end of the song, a chorus chimes in to create a truly surreal, hypnotizing sound.
By most standards, “Enterlude” and “Exitlude” would be considered pointless snippets of lyrical repetition. But with its simplicity and sincerity, it’s a refreshing start and end to this hodgepodge album. The piano greets listeners as Flowers goes on about “enjoying your stay.” Literally, that is it. It is a classic feel-good anthem that will become perhaps the greatest sing-along of the 21st century. Think the kookiness of Modest Mouse with Wilco’s humble sound.
While I still highly doubt any music critic would call this album a success, it has great theatrical potential. Throughout most of the album, I was imagining The Killers making various costume changes and directing an orchestra. This album is definitely their “concept” album, or in a few years, that album they no longer want to discuss.
Releasing Hot Fuss in 2004, The Killers had ample time to make their follow-up album a success. The formula was set. The world adored them. But perhaps Hot Fuss was just too good. Let’s put it this way…The Killers are babies when it comes to their relative age and experience as a band. They have years to explore, create, and perhaps, ruin their career. I’ll be waiting…
[Rachel Hommel might not think bones are sexy, but big, hokey ’80s hair – now that’s a different story.]