“Spaceman” from the album Day & Age
The Killers’ new album Day & Age has been greeted as a welcome return to the danceable synthesizer-infused pop of the group’s multi-platinum selling 2004 debut Hot Fuss. The positive response is a notable contrast to the reactions many had to the group’s second release, Sam’s Town. That album was often criticized for being overblown with its arena-size sound and epic rock intentions.
But guitarist Dave Keuning — a key songwriter in the band alongside singer/keyboardist Brandon Flowers — isn’t so quick to call Day & Age a throwback.
“Well, the song ‘A Dustland Fairytale’ comes to mind as one that could be on Sam’s Town. And ‘Losing Touch’ even,” Keuning says. “They have elements of what Sam’s Town was. It’s harder to pinpoint even than maybe [an outside observer] could. We feel like all of this stuff is the Killers’ music. I never felt like we weren’t being ourselves on Sam’s Town. Different things came out of us at different times.”
In reality, Flowers may have inadvertently fueled some of the critical backlash that surrounded Sam’s Town. In an often-quoted MTV interview prior to the release of the album, he touted it as one of the best albums of the past 20 years, and said the album had a strong Bruce Springsteen influence. Such grand pronouncements weren’t out of character for Flowers, who has never made a secret of his ambition to see the Killers become one of rock’s biggest bands.
Flowers and Keuning formed the band in Las Vegas in 2002. Bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci eventually completed the lineup. Ironically, their big break didn’t come in the United States, but in England, after a representative at Warner Bros. (which had passed on signing the Killers) alerted a friend at the British label Lizard King Records about them.
Lizard King signed the band, and in short order saw the initial single, “Mr. Brightside,” become a hit in the U.K. After the Killers returned to the States to play at the 2003 CMJ Music Conference in N.Y.C., Island Records signed the group and released Hot Fuss. It went on to sell more than three million copies in the United States (five million worldwide), while spawning the hit singles “Somebody Told Me,” “Mr. Brightside,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” and “All These Things That I’ve Done.”
Day & Age is sharply crafted and enjoyable throughout. “Human” is in the vein of the ’80s synthesizer-fueled dance pop that defined such Hot Fuss songs as “Smile Like You Mean It” and “On Top.” The energetic “Spaceman” and the punchy “The World We Live In” also fit the highly melodic dance-pop mold. “Joy Ride” adds a bit of a tropical vibe to its Duran Duran-ish sound. The Latin rhythm of the acoustic-flavored “I Can’t Say” gives the song a prominent world beat dimension. There’s also a bit of a world beat overtone in the chanting vocals that are woven into “This Is Your Life,” a Cars-esque synth-pop track.
“I don’t think we ever said, hey, we’re going to sound like this,” Keuning says. “When Brandon and I first got the band started, we talked about bands we liked, but we didn’t really talk about what we sounded like. We were writing songs, and certain things came out. We’re not limiting ourselves to one style or one thing.”
Day & Age received favorable reviews and a initial burst of success, as “Human” became a top 10 modern rock and dance club hit. A second single, “Spaceman,” cracked the top 20 on the modern rock chart
The album should get a boost with the extensive tour this month.
“We’re going to bring back some old songs and play all the new ones. There might be some covers in there,” he said. “There will be interesting lighting and production, of course.”
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