by MATT BACON >
So The Killers are back – it has certainly been long enough.
Yet somehow it only seems fitting that it would take this band so long to properly come back. When it comes down to it – The Killers have always been a band who perhaps exist best in the shadows. Their unique wealth of influences, their desire to mimic the Boss’s heartland rock, and their understanding of the human condition makes it impossible to turn away from what they have to offer. I’ve always felt that a part of me didn’t deserve The Killers. They have reached a point where they are crucial in the musical taste of almost everyone I know from the age of 35 and younger. Sure there are some folks who never really had the chance to get into them – but for a whole generation of us The Killers have been one of the most vital and pulsating rock bands out there. They have played by their own rules and crafted something totally unique – I’ve gone on the record saying this before and will say it again – they are this generations Led Zeppelin. But in a generation void of rock and roll what does that really mean?
With Wonderful Wonderful we see The Killers doubling down on their late career obsession with synths and arena filling… not rockers per say, but anthems.
This has been a progression we’ve seen since Day & Age when the band started to really push into the world of synthesizers and epic song structures. When it really comes down to it this record is perhaps the closest to what the band has always wanted to be. Ever since Sam’s Town started to push towards arena grandeur it’s been clear that bringing in these electronic elements and grander orchestrations. That being said – it’s important to realize that this record isn’t just a continuation on the grandiose orchestrations of Battle Born. Rather this is an album that sees the group expanding on past strengths and delving deeper than I think most of us might have expected into the world of 80s pop. There is a magnitude here that you can’t miss and a sense of beauty that can’t help but to haunt.
This is a record that defines itself on being incredibly self aware.
Heavy is the crown for The Killers. In a world where nobody thought that they would be an also ran in the early 2000’s rock revival things seemed a lot simpler for the band. Suddenly, for whatever reason they find themselves among the last men standing and it means that the burden is that much heavier. There is a sense of torment that drives this band, and while that inherent misery has always been there I feel like this particular record really sees Flowers looking at himself and trying to find a way forward through the murk and the misery of this lifestyle. An album that sees him not-so-subtly drawing comparisons between himself and titans like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and most surprisingly Mike Tyson it’s hard to always feel sympathetic for Flowers. Yet that’s a huge part of it – because it’s not so hard to see that there is a real misery here.
I think ultimately the appeal of The Killers in their modern era is that even though they have essentially attained Rock God-dom in a way that is pretty much unparalleled in the 2010’s they still have a lot of the same basic human struggles we all suffer from. Flowers is dealing with his wife suffering from PTSD, his own struggle with writers block and ultimately trying to find his place in the world. These are fundamental realities that I think a lot of us find ourselves struggling with time and time again. There is the same sense of dust land fairy tales that charmed us so much so many years ago. A band who have always embraced the bombast and ridiculousness of their choice genre this record, perhaps their most ‘out there’ yet is also in many ways there most human. Rather than asking you to belt out lines like “He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus” you instead ask yourself “Has every ship gone sailing? Has every heart gone blue?”
Wonderful Wonderful definitely threw me for a loop at first because it is, quite frankly, the most aesthetically different Killers record yet.
Even Battle Born, for all its weirdness was definitely very much in the vein of previous releases. This album has been defined by the bands biggest gap between records and consequently the largest shift. Perhaps the best way to put it is that there are tracks here that feel like remixes from previous releases. Now that’s kind of a weird mind melting thing simply because those remixes always felt like they were meant to be a fun add on rather than a definition of what the band would become. I’m not saying I don’t like it, in fact very much the opposite. As with every Killers record though there are a lot of layers here and properly unpacking them is going to take dozens of listens and many months. Until that point stating a definitive opinion is going to be a tricky thing.
All the being said – this is not a band who are aesthetically defined anymore.
While even Battle Born had healthy hints of their early brilliance this release only has a few sparse moments that reference back to the relatively stripped down magic of their first two records. The most notable example being “Run For Cover” which really channels some of that magic, even going so far as to almost but not quite musically quote a few earlier moments. This is a very full sounding album, no longer reflecting on the space that allowed those early arena rockers to really resonate across crowds all over the globe. I’m not entirely sure if this is going to wind up as the bands new direction or their ‘weird experimental record’ but I’m not exactly complaining about the results either way.