The first album from The Killers in five years, ‘Wonderful Wonderful’, sees the band struggling to break with their old ways, but only sometimes sucessfully.
It seems like yesterday when The Killers’ maddeningly infectious debut album from 2004, Hot Fuss, took the world by storm. Since the overwhelming and culturally ubiquitous success of ‘Mr Brightside’ from over a decade ago, the Las Vegas band has been consistently releasing music which resonates with a lot of people, while simultaneously being described as lacking substance and imagination.
The Killers seem to have been on a never-ending quest to record an album which would prove that their popularity and recognition do not have a very urgent expiration date. While their music demonstrates an ability to grab the listeners’ attention, they never seemed to have had a clear direction in their musical endeavours. After releasing Hot Fuss, many of The Killers’ endeavours were drawing from artists such as U2 or Bruce Springsteen (Battle Born and Sam’s Town respectively), often lacking originality. Although they sometimes managed to use those inspirations quite gracefully, they never fully reached their creative potential or stamp their own personality upon proceeding.
While their music is widely enjoyed by fans all around the planet, the phenomenon of their rise to stardom has always been quite difficult to understand and explain, probably because of the general response to their music, which has never been unanimous; some listeners prize their skilful combination of current rock trends with the ‘80s and ‘90s pop influences, while others do not have enough patience for Flowers’ vague and often earnest lyrics, and over-the-top production.
Nevertheless, expectations for The Killers can be very high – they have won awards, toured around the world, and are a genuinely talented group of musicians, with the charismatic and exuberantly confident Brandon Flowers performing as the leader of the band. For all the above, they have all the ingredients necessary to record a quality album which could surprise even the most sceptical listeners. Wonderful Wonderful, their newest release and first in five years, is therefore yet another chance for The Killers to rejuvenate their image and validate their position as one of the most popular contemporary rock bands.
Wonderful Wonderful starts in a somewhat grandiose if not peculiar way. On the title track, Flowers doesn’t hold himself back, howling distinctively, “motherless child, does thou believe / that thine afflictions have caused us to grieve?”, which as per usual for his lyrics, makes little to no sense. Before Flowers appears with a bundle of confusing statements, a bizarre and high-pitched horn opens the song, falling somewhere between baffling and amusing.
The following song, the album’s lead single ‘The Man’, is definitely one of the most entertaining tracks on the album. It treats the listener with well-executed use of synths, as well as an incredibly catchy hook, which is used by Flowers to remind and point out that “you’re looking at the man” with “money in the bank” and “gas in the tank” – things which he apparently also doesn’t “give a damn” about. While the song is fun to listen to, it might also be fun figuring out whether the character which Flowers portrays in it (as well as in the video) is to be interpreted as an over-exaggerated and silly version of himself, or simply a chance for him to stroll around in a sparkling-golden suit, like it’s just any other day.
While there are quite a few sombre-like moments on Wonderful Wonderful, there is also a flagship ‘runaways’ tune on the album. ‘Run For Cover’ has an anthemic vibe, dipping in glam rock and its purely outrageous choruses, which have somehow always suited The Killers and their American-Dream-themed songs. Nevertheless, the song is perfectly enjoyable, something that isn’t always the case with The Killers. They have an unusual tendency to turn promising tunes into melodically unsatisfying compositions, which are simply unmemorable or even dull. After all those years, it almost seems like The Killers record wouldn’t feel complete without at least a few songs which do not make any impression on the listener – sounding characterless and uninspiring.
‘Out Of My Mind’ doesn’t belong to that group quite yet. It is surprisingly pleasant and brings smooth vocals from Flowers, who also exposes his softer side to the public. However, there are songs on Wonderful Wonderful which probably shouldn’t have made the cut and qualify for being rather colourless. On ‘Life To Come’, The Killers resembles U2 more than ever, with its overblown chorus, in which Flowers belts out: “If you call my name, I will run whether or not it’s tonight, or the life to come”, while ‘The Calling’, a song which was meant to be bold and saucy, turns into a convoluted Biblical story. ‘Have All The Songs Been Written’ features beautiful guitar riffs, but lacks emotional intensity which could make it truly powerful, similar to the mild ‘Some Kind Of Love’.
Whether The Killers’ fans will find Wonderful Wonderful enjoyable is an open-ended question. There always seem to be arguments for and against their music, or rather their ability to make good music with impact. It can be likeable, but overall it doesn’t break away from the band’s old ways. Wonderful Wonderful is lacking character more frequently than it is offering something to hold on to. Essentially, it goes back to The Killers’ usual problems of causing true excitement and equipping their songs with longevity and understandable messages. (5/10) (Alicja Rutkowska)
Listen to Wonderful Wonderful by The Killers here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Alicja Rutkowska, Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Island, Mark Stoermer, review, Ronnie Vannucci, The Killers, Wonderful Wonderful
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