With the constant playing of ‘Mr. Brightside’ on the radio, The Killers always seem to stay in the public consciousness – because of this, it seems scarcely believable that it’s been half a decade since they last released an album. Combining the heartland rock of 2012’s Battle Born with the electropop of frontman Brandon Flowers’ 2015 solo album, The Desired Effect, the Las Vegas quartet’s fifth album contains their best collection of songs in a decade, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its title.
A longstanding tradition with Flowers and co. is the penchant for beginning albums with a rapid anthem (think ‘Sam’s Town’ and ‘Flesh and Bone’), but with the title track here, the slower tempo doesn’t lessen the bombast. The verses play like Joshua Tree-era U2, with the roaming bassline and scratchy guitars preceding a classic rock chorus that nearly breaks into Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’. As Flowers bellows “motherless child, rescue rescue”, it creates a more calculated form of grandiosity.
That’s in stark contrast to comeback single ‘The Man’, a swaggering disco-rock song with an irresistible funk bassline. Described as a self-reflective look at Flowers’ cockier younger self, it’s as daft a song as they’ve ever released, with the intoxicating synths bringing life to the tongue-in-cheek lyrics; “I got gas in the tank/I got money in the bank/I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man”. The track is tailor-made for anyone wishing to strut, with the inclusion of a cash register showing that the Nevada outfit haven’t lost their sense of humour, nor their knack for producing delightfully catchy numbers.
Flowers is sometimes seen as a limited lyricist, being at his best when the irony is ramped up, but he’s never been afraid of concocting stories (think the murder investigation on ‘Jenny was a Friend of Mine’). On ‘Run for Cover’, he tries to warn someone of an abusive relationship in true Killers style, using upbeat instrumentation to support its life-affirming message; “Run for cover/Run while you can, baby, don’t look back/You gotta run for cover”. Featuring some thunderous drumming from Ronnie Vannucci, it combines the rawness of Hot Fuss with the synths of Battle Born, resulting in a cut that sounds like it will become a fan favourite.
That’s not to say there aren’t slower moments – ‘Rut’ and ‘Some Kind of Love’ provide a nice change of pace, with the latter sounding like it was on the cutting room floor for Coldplay’s Ghost Stories. The gentle arpeggios and warm synths coupled with harmonised backing vocals from Flowers’ children could be construed as over-sentimentality, but the track remains a peaceful listen. It precedes the most immaculately produced track on the album, ‘Out Of My Mind’, with the glossy synths and smooth drumming creating one of the most memorable hooks on the entire project.
Much like with most of their previous output, there are missteps – ‘Tyson vs Douglas’ is every as bit as ridiculous as the title suggests, with Flowers’ vocals being drowned out by an uninspiring backing track. The album ends on an unexpectedly slower note, with ‘Have All The Songs Been Written?’ being a comedown from the sultry, Personal Jesus-esque ‘The Calling’. Seeing as The Killers normally end their albums with a pacey number (think of the thundering ‘A Crippling Blow’ or epic ‘Battle Born’), this feels out of kilter on a record that succeeds due to its bravado and bombast, meaning the LP ends somewhat on a damp squib.
In many ways, this album could encapsulate the band’s career – a good record that contains multiple joyous pop songs and the odd bum note. It was announced a while ago that neither guitarist Dave Keuning nor bassist Mark Stoermer would be touring in support of the album, leading to murmurs that the band might be finished. If the bustling energy and sheer bravado of Wonderful Wonderful is anything to go by, then there’s plenty of life left in The Killers.