Rolling Stone Pans Sam’s Town
Rob Sheffield, one of our favorite rock journos, is not impressed with Killers 2.0.
Why, Killers? Why? It’s the oldest story in the New Wave book: (1) Boys get famous wearing makeup and acting tarty to impress girls; (2) Boys wash off makeup and act sincere to impress boys; (3) It never works. Loads of the original New Wave bands fell into this trap, but the difference with the Killers is that we all thought they were too smart to take themselves seriously. On their smash 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, the Killers were dance-punk New Romantic glitz pimps, goosing David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” into their own ready-made classic, “Mr. Brightside.” It was a perfect pop record, and a lot less superficial than it pretended to be. But on their second album, Sam’s Town, the Las Vegas party boys ditch their cheerfully fake Bowie moves and try to get heavy by copying Bruce Springsteen. Yes, that means glockenspiel solos. Yes, it means anthems about the road and looking for America and girls named Mary. No, it’s not a good move.
So this is the Killers in 1980s Springsteen-clone mode: better than Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers; not as good as John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band; about even with Billy Hicks and the New Breed. (That was Rob Lowe’s band in St. Elmo’s Fire, though the Killers have better fashion sense.) In the single “When You Were Young,” Brandon Flowers blares about highways, heartaches, mountains, Jesus and the devil, and sprains his larynx trying to sell lines like “We’re burning down the highway skyline/On the back of a hurricane.” (Hurricanes don’t burn, actually; check your copy of Neil Young’s Guide to Weather Metaphors.) So why is it the single? Because it’s the closest thing to a good song on the album.
UPDATE: Now that it’s leaked, we gotta ask ya: is this the best album of the past twenty years or what?
UPDATE #2: And for the lawful citizens of the blogosphere who want to weigh in, Sam’s Town is streaming in all its glory at MTV’s The Leak.