If you haven’t heard of the Killers yet, you’ve either been in seminary or trapped on a mountainside contemplating eating your best friend. Ew. Regardless, if you haven’t, you soon will. Straight outta Vegas, the Killers have come to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and they’re all out of bubblegum. OK, I stole that line from They Live, the 1988 film that showcased the amazing acting talent of one ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, but there’s a reason for that. Number one, they do kick ass, and number two, they bring the best aspects of great eighties music and update it for a new millennium.
Having already been called one of the ‘next big things’ by Spin Magazine and having taken England by storm, touring with British Sea Power no less, the Killers are now ready to conquer their homeland with their debut album release Hot Fuss. (By the way, it’s kinda fun to note that most of the reviews so far have been calling the album A Hot Fuss, maybe in reference to the band itself, but, sorry, no A). If you pay attention, you’ll be sure to get entirely sick of hearing the same trivia question regarding the bands name over and over again. Incidentally, the band’s name comes from New Order’s “Crystal” video. The fake band singing New Order’s song has the name on the drum kit.
It’s going to be easy for any listener or reviewer to immediately call them slick, produced, or created, but the truth is, they’re just damn good at what they do. I haven’t heard a debut album this tight in a long time, and they produced it themselves! These are guys who love and appreciate music, and you can tell. It doesn’t hurt that they recruited Alan Moulder to help mix it either. Plus, they’re fully aware of the perception, hence the choice of name referring to a `fake’ band. No slouches, these guys.
How do I describe the Killers in a way that no one else has? There’s almost no way, but I’ll give it my best shot. Well, they’re Tarquin Gotch’s wet dream. (pause) Ok, there’s maybe about five people in the world who got that joke. He was John Hughes’ musical director. Duh. Back to logical descriptions. First let’s take vocalist / keyboardist Brandon Flowers, if that is his real name. Take a little Simon LeBon or Robert Smith without the whining, or Richard Butler without the cigarette-tinged rasp, add in the keyboard playing of Nick Rhodes and Mike Score, throw in a little Flesh For Lulu (remember them kiddies?) and some Interpol, and you almost have it. I won’t go into anyone else, except maybe in certain song descriptions, but you get the picture.
The first song is “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.” Backed by a funkalicious bassline straight from John Taylor’s bag of tricks (think “The Reflex”), though they claim they lifted it from Andy Rourke, and great throwback synthesizers, one tends not to notice the creepy early Robert Smith-like lyrics about a murder. The only thing needed to make the song perfect would have been to replace the ‘c’mons’ with other lyrics as they are a dime a dozen, and especially bad timing with the Von Bondies’ single. Otherwise, the song is a perfect intro to a near perfect album.
“Mr. Brightside” is just as catchy, and again, just as deceptive. Looking at the title and hearing the fast paced vocals and rhythms, one would be lulled into thinking it a positive song instead one filled with enough jealous rage to make one choke on his own bile. Blech. “Smile Like You Mean It” is pure Berlin, somewhere between their songs “Metro” and “No More Words,” thrown in with the smoldering voice of Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, and then the guitar solo is reminiscent again of Flesh for Lulu or The Alarm. I know what you’re thinking: If it sounds so much like other stuff, how can it be that good, doesn’t it sound derivative? Yes and no. They certainly doff their caps to their predecessors, but it has a life and a Vegas flash all of its own. Take for instance the first Matrix film. Please forget the other two for now. Other films had done wirework martial arts, CGI, and futuristic plot lines, but the original Matrix took all of those and made it so kick ass that no one could fault it. It’s kinda like that.
The first single, “Somebody Told Me,” just proves that they’re no fluke. The chorus is definitely the star of this song:
“Well somebody told me
You had a boyfriend
Who looks like a girlfriend
That I had in February of last year
It’s not confidential
I’ve got potential
A rushin’, a rushin’ around”
“Andy, You’re a Star” has been compared with Franz Ferdinand’s “Michael” which in turn has been compared to David Bowie’s “John, I’m Only Dancing.” Well, both comparisons fit. This time it’s sort of a secret crush on a football player from high school. The narrator watches from afar and hopes that the girl he’s with isn’t serious. “In a car with a girl, promise me she’s not your world.” He also throws a couple of homages toward another eighties band, The Police with mentions of the `staff room.’ The other homages keep coming as in “On Top” when Flowers sings, “Remember Rio and get down.”
The second half of the album might not be loaded with singles, but how many albums besides Thriller really does? It still has some amazing songs that shouldn’t be missed, including “Believe Me Natalie,” calling to mind the percussion of “Fascination Street,” the guitar work of the Edge, and a little bit of Joy Division and Bauhaus if they felt any kind of happiness. Throw in some horns at the end for a little bit of The Cure’s “Hot Hot Hot,” not to mention the band Hot Hot Heat and there you have it. You just have to hear it to believe it. It’s an incredible piece of music.
“Midnight Show” has a definite U2 or Talk Talk feel, maybe some Fixx as well. The album ends with “Everything Will Be Alright,” which is somewhat suggestive of The Thompson Twins’ “If You Were Here.” You know, that song at the end of Sixteen Candles. All that this song goes to show is that they can end an album as well as they open it. Even through all of the pain it took to actually listen to this album (it’s copy protected by like, FBI nanotechnology to prevent burning, so, of course, it wouldn’t play on either PC or Mac and wouldn’t play on two of my CD players, I’m listening to a Discman as I write), I still have to recommend it to the nth degree. The Killers are definitely living up to the hype. Believe it y’all.
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
All of the above mentioned bands, songs, and albums