Album Reviews

The Killers – Pressure Machine

(EMI) UK release date: 13 August 2021

The Killers - Pressure Machine Since their debut album Hot Fuss arrived in 2004, The Killers have put out consistent records without really getting near the level they first achieved. Last year however, just before we all locked down, Imploding The Mirage stood comparatively tall amongst its companions in the band’s portfolio. Just a year later album seven arrives in the shape of Pressure Machine.

Having made their name as an American take on a British formula, The Killers are pretty much synonymous with arena filling pop anthems. So Pressure Machine may come as a bit of a shock. It’s certainly not what you would expect, for here is an overdue departure from their trusted mould, an album that has more in common with the works of Bruce Springsteen.

With times being unlike any other in recent history, frontman Brandon Flowers had time to reflect, and ended up delving into his own past. Between the ages of 10 and 16, Flowers was growing up in a small Mormon town in Utah called Nephi with some 5,000 fellow occupants for company. Being such a tight-knit community, there was a sense of everyone knowing everyone. It’s the stories of that time in Flowers’ memory that inspire this collection, along with snippets of mini-interviews with several current residents that give the album an authentic feel, so much so that you often feel engulfed in the community; it’s almost as if you’re being dragged into the scenes. It’s a laudable achievement for a record when the listener can entirely sense the reality.

Interspersing the snippets of conversations sounds like a turn off, but it works well, not least when a young girl describes the story of a stampede that saw a horse fall and snap a leg, the distraught owner then holding her injured horse knowing that their time together was over; it really is heart-wrenching. After the sad introduction, one of the album highlights follows in Runaway Horses, featuring Phoebe Bridgers, and it’s a suitably beautiful number. Further chit-chat reveals more personal tales. In Another Life tells of “everyone just trying to escape something” where drugs get a mention – not for the first time – before another decent cut emerges.

Springsteen-esque tracks are at the heart of the album though, from opener West Hills to the rather impressive Quiet Town that reveals, “good people that lean on Jesus, they’re quick to forgive”. The Boss also has his presence felt on Cody after lyrics damningly state, “he didn’t start the fire, his parents knew he probably did” before leading to a tale that is more upbeat than many of its peers. But it’s the chorus that will really resonate with Springsteen fans, for it’s easy to imagine him belting this out instead of Flowers.

There’s a familiar glitzy ‘80s feel to the excellent, racing In The Car Outside and this time there’s a whiff of James thrown in. A gorgeous Flowers falsetto features on the title track, and a slow campfire acoustic rendition pops up on Terrible Thing, a track which names the “Jones Rubber Plant where all the guys end up”, as well as the appearance of a more typical Killers cut in Sleepwalker. But the issue is, all these songs are good without many, if any, being outstanding.

Flowers’ sister and her family still live in the town so he’s probably no stranger to more up-to-date stories from Nephi, but these are revealing notes from his own time there and you can’t help but feel drawn in, its claustrophobic atmosphere becoming inescapable. For an about turn, detour, whatever you want to call it, Pressure Machine is a decent attempt at a concept album of sorts. Some mountainous peaks would take it to the next level; without them it feels as though it could soon, somewhat disappointingly, disappear.

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