Album Reviews

The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

(Virgin EMI) UK release date: 22 September 2017


The Killers - Wonderful WonderfulOver a decade on from the success of their debut album Hot Fuss, The Killers’ fifth album sees them return with legacy on their mind.

The idea cropped up while lead singer Brandon Flowers, has promoted Wonderful Wonderful, the Las Vegas band’s new record. “The older you get, the more you’re conscious of time and how limited it is,” Flowers admitted in a recent interview. “The megalomaniac in you says, ‘Well, what kind of mark have I left?’”

One song, the rather Marmite Mr Brightside, has long ensured The Killers will be played at grotty indie dancefloors across the globe for years to come. Whereas that might have been enough for some of their contemporaries, over a decade later, The Killers still have desire burning. Through their various musical explorations it is clear they want to be remembered for more than a teenage anthem.

In their time, they’ve tried their hand at synthy indie, stadium rock and even an ill-advised (if rather commercially successful) foray into dance. While Wonderful Wonderful is something of a hybrid encompassing all three sounds, discovering that The Killers worked with U2 producer Jacknife Lee this time round flags the direction of travel.

For Killers aficionados, this record is much more Sam’s Town than Day & Age. It opens in a rather brash fashion with the pulsating title track and Talking Heads-like The Man. Lyrically, Flowers boasts: “I’ve got gas in the tank, I’ve got money in the bank, I’ve got news for you baby you are looking at the man.” Mercifully for the listener, the record soon gets a little deeper, with two boxing-inspired tracks, Rut and Tyson v Douglas. The second opens with commentary from one of the sport’s most legendary upsets, heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson being knocked out by the rank outsider Buster Douglas, back in 1990.

Somewhat surprisingly, the track isn’t from the underdog’s perspective but instead from that of the fallen icon. During Wonderful Wonderful’s first few tracks the listener hears little more than lyrical cockiness, but in Tyson v Douglas, there’s a vulnerability and fragility. “I don’t know what happened, I’m out on my feet,” Flowers admits in his always distinctively smooth vocals. “You’re used to winning, how does it feel?”

From that song, Wonderful Wonderful possesses greater authority. That familiar ’80s sound rooted in New Order fandom, Hot Fuss and Flowers’ solo work get pushed to one side. Instead, the album becomes a lesson in how to do soft rock well. There is, of course, the mandatory theme for any 2017 album, a criticism of Donald Trump, in Run for Cover. It’s followed by a homage to Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney in Out Of My Mind.

The album closes with Money Straight, the power ballad the self-proclaimed ‘American U2’ were born to play. It is self-indulgent and self-fulfilling, but it is something they’ve earned the right to do after selling millions of records.

Hot Fuss, with modern day indie classics such as Somebody Told Me, Glamorous Indie Rock ‘n’ Roll and the aforementioned Mr Brightside, helped shape a generation whose biggest struggle was getting out of bed for lectures. Wonderful Wonderful wants to guide those same fans through life’s more serious challenges such as parenthood, loss and the unavoidablility of getting older.

As for legacy, there’s a sense Flowers and his band have accepted they are no longer indie kids and appear comfortable enough as a grown-up band. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean they’ve gone boring, and on this record they are still producing big anthemic music which grabs the listener’s attention. While Wonderful Wonderful certainly isn’t The Killers’ best record – or even their second best – it is a welcome return to form after some time in the wilderness.

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