Thankfully, The Killers are back. After the ambitious but awkward foray into experimentation and taking themselves too seriously that was Sam’s Town, Day & Age blasts like a rocket through its hazy leftovers into star-studded clarity and brilliance.
Maybe that was the intention, because there’s definitely a running metaphor itching to be described here. With track names like ‘Human’, ‘Spaceman’ and ‘The World We Live In’, this record swiftly announces that it’s here to self-observe humanity like a curious, rock music loving ET. It gives it a peculiar extra-terrestrial feel that allows it to soar to its pop synth melodic heights without falling foul of its self-conscious 80s roots.
And whats more, it’s fun. With wry, ridiculous peacock strutting bravado, silly glam trousers and heavily spangled arrangements, Brandon Flowers and Co are pure indie rock bling.
Pet Shop Boys, New Order and 80s Roots
‘Losing Touch’ sees Brandon’s lazy, wistful vocal harmonised over a moderately synthed arrangement with a repeatedly building percussive line, anthemic rock guitars and an injection of bold brass. The melody flicks between strains like a switch, nodding first to Pet Shop Boys 80s pop style origins, then to good old-fashioned rock. Like an overture, the atmosphere is set.
Next, lead single ‘Human’ takes the Pet Shop Boys and New Order influences, and runs with them, sailing straight past good grammar, but waving at Hunter S. Thompson (Are we human? / Or are we dancer? – supposedly a reference to Thompson’s comment that America was “raising a generation of dancers’), and finally arriving like a post-punk John Travolta on an emotional dancefloor.
The surreal ‘Spaceman’, about Flowers’ imagined abduction by aliens, has a mosh-pit-rousing chorus, heavily synthed with some vintage Killers guitars driving a rushing pace.
Bowie Funk and Swaggering Orchestra
‘Joyride’ is an interesting expedition into funk territory. Flowers’ tremulous Bowie-style vocals preside over a funkier rhythm spritzed with saxophone. Hell, there’s even a little bit of Abba in there, though there’s still a big synth + guitar Killers signature scrawled neatly and plausibly all over the track.
‘A Dustland Fairytale’ has an orchestral quality, with subtle strings and bold timpani complementing an unusual and swift percussive line. It has an arrogant swagger to it, beginning from a simple melody but growing into a thrashing epic where a white trash love story turns into castles in the clouds.
World Music Influences
And that’s where the band launches a global assault. ‘This is Your Life’ has a military style, snare drum beat introduced by an African inspired chant. Meanwhile, close your eyes on ‘I Can’t Stay’ and you can feel the vibes of a tropical island, complete with steel drums, coconuts and chicks/guys (delete as appropriate) in grass skirts. All these global influences are firmly grounded in the album through that classic Killers tone, and anchored by inspiring and melodic songwriting.
‘Neon Tiger’ starts as a belting 80s inspired power track, with lyrics that are almost as indie glam rock as Flowers himself. ‘The World We Live In’ meanwhile, sees a loop round back to vintage Killers.
Gothic Disappointment, Brave Ending and Sell Out Tour 2009
Is the album perfect? Well, no. Closing track ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’ is dire, put simply. It’s pointlessly heavy, dull, droning and repetitive. It aims for a dark, moody, almost gothic vibe, which just makes you want to shake it until it begrudgingly returns blinking into the radiance of the rest of the album. Talk about ending on a bum note.
Good job then, that there’s an attitude filled, stomping bonus track to finish things off properly. ‘A Crippling Blow’ has a total melodic shift between its racing angry fire-fuelled verses and its sweetly playful chorus, giving the unnervingly brilliant sensation of musical manic depressiveness. It’s edgy, and brave. That’s more like it…
This album needs no further comment. It’s unusual, ambitious, and deserves a close encounter…
Day & Age has made it onto a number of 2008’s ‘best’ lists, ahead of the band’s eagerly awaited sell out UK tour in February 2009. The album is out now.…