THE KILLERS Wonderful Wonderful gets 5.5/10

The Killers
Wonderful Wonderful
Island/Universal

5.5/10

I’ve been a Killers apologist too long. If you ask me, last album Battle Born (2012) ranks alongside 2004 debut Hot Fuss and 2006 follow up Sam’s Town as among their best.

Wonderful Wonderful, unfortunately, veers closer to career low-point Day & Age (2008). It’s a top heavy batch of songs following the vague theme of what it means to be a man today. But despite a couple of memorable numbers, it lacks in consistency, which across just 10 tracks makes for a disappointing record.

What’s usually appealing about The Killers is frontman Brandon Flowers’ unwavering self-belief. He aims every song directly at the ceiling with the ambition of a Freddie Mercury or Bruce Springsteen. He’s not phased by shame or the need to be cool – let’s be clear: he’s a stadium bound Mormon rock star in an age where rock stars are supposed to be extinct – and that’s exactly what makes him a breath of fresh air.

For that reason, the natural Vegas showman in Flowers comes to life on stage. Seeing him command the Metro City stage on their first trip to Perth supporting Hot Fuss was a revelation, but he was made to headline stadiums and more recent trips topping the bill on the since-defunct V Festival and Big Day Outs proved that even when the Killers weren’t producing hit singles, live they remained a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps the problem with Wonderful Wonderful is that Flowers is second guessing himself more than usual. First single The Man might be a ready made televised sport anthem, but one senses that for all the song’s false braggadocio, when Flowers looks in the mirror it’s following track Rut that dominates his thinking: “Don’t give up on me, ’cause I’m just in a rut”. Which suggests The Man is being misunderstood by jocks the world over as they use it to pump themselves up.

Rut is a typically awkward Killers call to arms that stands alongside the ridiculously exotic opener Wonderful Wonderful, driving second single Run For Cover and boxing allegory Tyson vs. Douglas as the record’s best tracks. None are unlikely to find pride of place at the start of a Killers best of, but their spirit can’t be questioned.

However, when it falters, Wonderful Wonderful falters badly. Out Of My Mind is the sort of celebrity name-dropping that mightn’t sound out of place on a hip hop record, but any verse that feels the need to say “I stormed the gates of Graceland to make you realise/ Went back to back with Springsteen, you turned and rolled your eyes/ So I told you about McCartney, and that’s a heavy name to drop” to impress, is so misguided that its intended recipient won’t be the only one rolling their eyes. The fact that it’s probably a true story… well, there’s such a thing as being too honest, and Flowers would’ve been well advised to keep this one to himself.

Some Kind of Love – ripped from a 1983 Brian Eno instrumental composition Flowers liked singing on top of – is a poor man’s extension of the Springsteen apeing synth ballads (think Streets of Philidelphia) such as Be Still and Deadlines and Commitments that made Battle Born a success. Lacking a hook, it falls flat.

Worst of all are a pair of Godly numbers that for the first time push the band’s faith to the forefront and are a little hard to swallow. Life To Come and The Calling sound as if they could make Hillsong’s next chart topper; when Flowers sings “I walked into town with a message for my old man” on the latter it’s already obvious he’s not singing about daddy issues, but nonetheless he follows it with: “I got the last two chapters of Matthew in my hand”. Getting Hollywood stoner Woody Harrelson to read a verse from Matthew 9:10-12 doesn’t make it any cooler.

I know, I know, The Killers have never been cool. But they have always written songs that are relatable. Inevitably, in getting personal on Wonderful Wonderful, Flowers has lost a little of that punch your fist in the air enthusiasm that made The Killers not only a fun band, but one fans could rely on. Punch in the gut emotions, on the other hand, just aren’t his forte.

Still, it’s likely to soar live in concert, and experience tells us you wouldn’t want to use it as an excuse to miss them at Perth Arena next May.

HARVEY RAE

 

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