Unlike my oldest son, who internalized The Killers‘ second album Sam’s Town during his teenage years, I am a reluctant, late-to-the-party Killers fan. Rather than really getting to know the breadth of their work, I have cherry-picked my favorite songs from the available four albums and discarded the rest.
Their fifth album, Wonderful Wonderful, released on September 22nd of this year, will be the first that I’ve given a thorough listen.
In recent years, the band has had to share time and the spotlight with Brandon Flowers (their popular lead singer) and his two solo albums. Their sound has drifted from The Killers’ brand of edgy alt-rock and toward The Killers featuring Brandon Flowers, with a more mainstream-acceptable pop feel.
Fans are anxious to see, then, if Wonderful Wonderful tries to recapture that distinctive early sound – a sound that put them on the map with songs like “Mr. Brightside” and “When You Were Young” – or would they continue to ride the wave of Flowers’ popularity? Which direction should they go and how do you make a decision like that?
If they flipped a coin, that coin landed on its side – the decision was to do both. A bold move, considering how difficult it is to do one or the other at a high level, let alone both. The chances of succeeding are similar to that of the aforementioned coin toss. But Wonderful Wonderful delivers – on each count – and does it well.
Songs like “Run For Cover” and “The Calling” leave no doubt that this is The Killers that long-time fans remember from a decade or more ago. Melody takes a backseat to the intense beat. The voice, rather than being elevated above the instruments, blends so as to become an instrument unto itself.
On the other side of that coin are songs like “Life To Come” and “Some Kind of Love” in which Flowers’ voice is featured prominently, with the comparatively mellow and melodic sound of his solo work. These, along with “Rut” and “Have All The Songs Been Written?” have Flowers’ stamp on them, but don’t fall into the trap of being too trite or milquetoast.
At the risk of putting a downer on this album, I feel compelled to point out that the four songs I just mentioned center around the same theme, one that has had a profound affect the lead singer/songwriter. Listeners who know the backstory get a deeper understanding of these songs and the intense feeling that went into them. Flowers’ wife and mother of his children suffers from Complex PTSD and has just recently begun to exhibit the symptoms. I am not an expert on this or any other mental illness, but from the text of these songs, it is obvious that it puts quite a burden on the entire family. Songs of frustration, songs of resolve, songs of encouragement – all come to life in light of their struggles.
But the well-balanced Wonderful Wonderful doesn’t wallow in these feelings and won’t keep you down for long. These slower, emotion-filled songs are countered by intensely vigorous guitars and rapid-fire beats. Not to mention some pretty creatively-crafted offerings thrown in the mix (check out “The Calling”).
I said at the beginning that Sam’s Town is the album my son considers his. And though it is too early to say with any certainty, but Wonderful Wonderful could well become mine.
- Pretty sure “The Man” and “Run For Cover” are anti-Trump songs.
- Flowers’ children join in on the ending notes of “Some Kind of Love” – a song to their mother.
- Will the Killers keep up their tradition of releasing a Christmas-themed single this year? (All proceeds go to charity) We should know soon.
- Yes, that is Woody Harrelson reading scripture at the beginning of “The Calling”
Here’s Wonderful Wonderful on Spotify