It’s safe to say The Killers are a fairly divisive band: For every self-professed “music lover” who opines that they have come to put rock and/or pop music in their respective graves, there’s another who believes they just might be among its saviours. Personally, I fit firmly in the latter category, but I’m gonna do my damndest not to let this trivial little fact unduly sway this review (Lord, give me strength)…
Often lazily dismissed as a “synth-pop” band, or an “80s-throwback” band, or, heh, a “U2 tribute/rip-off” band – not that there’s anythin’ wrong with any of these things! – but those of us who know better are well aware that The Killers are actually quite an eclectic little bunch, with many and varied influences…as best attested by “Sawdust”, a “b-sides” compilation released a few years back, which among other novelties included a fairly faithful cover of country classic “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”. But Brandon Flowers and his “day-band” have always been smart enough to realise that good songwriting is good songwriting, irrespective of any “genre” tags people may be inclined to impose upon things, and upon first listen – hell, even by the end of spectacular opener “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas”, which by said conclusion had given me that all-too-familiar Killers-esque lump-in-the-throat – it’s clear that that’s exactly what we have here in Mr. Flowers’ debut solo album: A record of darn fine “pop” songs. Period.
Which isn’t to say that this is “just another Killers album under another name”. All The Killers’ albums are quite defiantly different beasts, and “freed” from the doubtlessly democratic confines of his usual band, Mr. Flowers delivers an album/animal that is stubbornly its own. Sure, it pushes to the fore many of the elements we were kinda expecting it to: Less rock ‘n’ roll bombast; a few more “ballads”; more synths; more country-tinged guitars; more soulful, gospel-esque moments of sheer, unadulterated JOY…perhaps the only thing I was expecting but didn’t get were more piano-and-vocal-only moments a la the glorious “Enterlude” (from “Sam’s Town”). Oh well, win some, lose some; I could probably suffer a whole album of just Brandon an’ his pianah! Most importantly, though, this album performs the trick we “Flowers-children” expect more than any other: To be taken on an epic journey, via some decidedly melancholic places, into territory that is ultimately uplifting and, dare I say, even “life-affirming” (two words you’ll NEVER hear me put together again, I promise, at least until the next Killers album…I have a well-earned reputation as a dyed-in-the-wool cynic to protect here)!
Basically, if you’re a fan of the Killers albums – and perhaps more importantly, all four of their albums to date, not just the ones with the biggest singles on ’em – it seems unlikely that you’ll not love this one as well. It’s still got those stirring, soaring vocals; those sublime lyrics; those stunning synths. Sure it’s not quite as meticulously-crafted and flawlessly-arranged as the best Killers stuff, but there’s also beauty in imperfection…just think of it as Brandon “jamming out” with a different bunch of co-writers and musicians for a spell, one which notably includes Daniel Lanois (one of the two men responsible for lending U2’s career longevity beyond the mid-80s, yet somehow unable to save their last couple of albums from borderline mediocrity – thank God Mr. Flowers and co. emerged just in time to take up the slack)! Which all goes to show what sterling company this frontman keeps, even when his “official” band members won’t come out to play – a couple of “cameos” on this album notwithstanding – and having said that, here’s sincerely hoping the next Killers album isn’t too far afield. Las Vegas’ most noteworthy export of recent years once again gambles and wins.
© Michael Bowser, Music Vice