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The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from chorus.fm for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    The Killers just can’t seem to catch a break.

    You’d think that penning one of the most iconic, ubiquitous pop songs of the millennium would win you some points. Same with putting out a debut album that almost single-handedly prolonged the life of rock radio for an extra year or two. By all accounts, Brandon Flowers and company are nice guys who work hard, put on an exceptional live show, and have a better track record of radio singles than any other rock band this side of the Foo Fighters. But The Killers have never been cool. They certainly never earned the stamp of approval from critics, who took the “No Fun Police” stance against the singles from Hot Fuss and then vowed to bury the band when Brandon Flowers had the audacity to suggest that 2006’s Sam’s Town would be “one of the best albums in the last 20 years.” Most music writers expected The Killers to be a flash in the pan, and they were graciously willing to help the band reach their inevitable demise.

    But a funny thing happened along the way: The Killers held on. As radio rock died, they kept writing hits. As the critical darling indie rock bands of the early 2000s slid toward mediocrity or obscurity or both, The Killers remained stubbornly present. Now, 13 years after Hot Fuss and five years after their last album, The Killers are back, and they are every bit as inescapable as they always have been. In the release week of September 22nd, which saw a massive deluge of new albums from acclaimed and up-and-coming artists, no one got as much press as The Killers.

    Part of it could be nostalgia. A once-colossal band coming back after five years away to survey the wreckage of rock ‘n’ roll? The “rock is dead” thinkpieces write themselves! Add the fact that The Killers seem to be splintering behind the scenes—both bassist Mark Stoermer and guitarist Dave Keuning have retired as touring members of the band—and it’s almost hard not to write about their new album. But The Killers still have a magnetism that, we can probably all agree, is very rare in a rock band these days. And the magnetism isn’t just about “Mr. Brightside” and how it still sounds good at festivals or sold-out Madison Square Garden shows. On the contrary, on Wonderful Wonderful, the band’s long-awaited fifth album, the magnetism is still there in the music, as well.

    The Killers have tried to market Wonderful Wonderful as a “return to form” after 2012’s Battle Born, an album they clearly do not like. (Counterpoint: Battle Born is the best Killers LP.) Interestingly, though, of the five albums in the band’s discography, Wonderful Wonderful sounds the least like a Killers record. Crucially, the once dominant roar of Dave Keuning’s guitar has been relegated to a background supporting role. Despite Keuning’s decision to stop touring, he was supposedly a part of the recording process for this album. You wouldn’t know it from listening to most of the songs, though, or from looking at the back cover, which inexplicably features just Brandon, Mark, and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. The last two tracks on the record, the spooky “The Calling” and the meditative “Have All the Songs Been Written?”, are the two where the guitar seems to take center stage, and Keuning doesn’t play on either of them. (The soulful guitarwork on the closing track was provided by Mark Knoplfer of Dire Straits fame, while Stoermer handled guitar on “The Calling.”)

    The benching of Keuning pulls some of The Killers’ identity away from this album. It’s not the only factor with that effect, either. Wonderful Wonderful also lacks a clear single, a first in The Killers catalog. Actual lead single “The Man,” with its Bowie-esque groove, is catchy enough, but is missing the anthemic punch that the band has always been so good at providing with singles. There is no “Mr. Brightside” or “All These Things That I’ve Done” on this album, no “When You Were Young” or “Read My Mind” or “Runaways.” The closest is “Run for Cover” a kinetic, synth-led rocker with plenty of zip and attitude (not to mention a timely “fake news” reference), but the hook isn’t as sharp as virtually anything on Battle Born, let alone side one of Hot Fuss.

    What Wonderful Wonderful lacks in poppy immediacy, though, it makes up for in intimacy. The Killers have never been known for hugely personal songwriting. The closest to personal they got was probably Sam’s Town, ostensibly a concept record about a young man Flower “breaking out of a two-star town” and chasing his dreams. They’ve always been a band that thrived on writing huge, sometimes ambiguous, and usually universally relatable songs. Wonderful Wonderful dispenses with that blueprint. The meat of the record was inspired by Brandon’s wife, who suffers from a condition known as Complex PTSD. Flowers recently revealed that he cancelled part of the tour for his last solo LP, 2015’s The Desired Effect, because his wife was having suicidal thoughts.

    That heavy subject matter forms the backbone for Wonderful Wonderful. Flowers navigates complicated webs of emotion in the album’s mid-section, which directly addresses his wife’s struggles and how they have impacted his role as a husband and a father. “Rut,” a radiant U2-esque power ballad, is written from her perspective, built around the lines “Don’t give up on me, ‘cause I’m just in a rut/I’m climbing, but the walls keep stacking up.” The next track, “Life to Come,” plays out as Flowers’ response. Where “Rut” closes with the desperate plea “Don’t you give up on me,” “Life to Come” plays like the renewal of a wedding vow. “I didn’t see this coming, I admit it/But if you think I’ll buckle, forget it/I told you that I’d be the one/I’ll be there in the life to come,” Flowers sings, before the rhythm section kicks in and he asks his bride to “have a little faith in me, girl/Just dropkick the shame.” On paper, that last line probably looks hokey. But Flowers’ unwavering earnestness has always been his greatest asset as a frontman, and it turns “Life to Come” into an incredibly moving affirmation of love and devotion.

    The same is true for the Brian Eno-influenced slowburn of “Some Kind of Love.” Flowers reportedly wrote the song after coming home from the Desired Effect tour to be with his wife. “Can’t do this alone/We need you at home/There’s so much to see/We know that you’re strong,” he sings at the end, accompanied by the three most important guests he’s ever brought on for an album: his children. It’s a beautiful, restrained moment that ranks among the most affecting in the entire Killers repertoire.

    While Flowers radiates strength and resilience on “Life to Come” and “Some Kind of Love,” some of the best moments on Wonderful Wonderful are where we see the doubt creep in. He’s not doubting his wife or his marriage: his commitment and faith on those fronts is sound. Instead, he’s doubting himself. On “Tyson vs. Douglas,” he recalls watching the eponymous 1990 boxing match, where Tyson suffered the first loss of his career at the hands of a 42-1 underdog. “When I saw him go down/Felt like somebody lied/I had to close my eyes/Just to stop the tears,” Flowers sings. It’s a song about realizing your heroes aren’t invincible or infallible, but it’s also more than that. When the bridge rolls around, Flowers’ thoughts shift from Tyson’s incredible loss to himself. “Feelin’ the slip again/I don’t wanna fall/You said it was nothing/But maybe you’re wrong.” He wants to be the hero for his wife and their kids, the big strong man who keeps them safe and never lets them down. But if the unbeatable Mike Tyson could get knocked out by someone who wasn’t even deemed a threat, how long until Brandon’s kids seem him fall, too?

    On “Have All the Songs Been Written?”, Flowers arrives at a moment where he feels like his number is up. “Have all the songs been written?/Have all your needs been met?/Have all these years been worth it?/Or am I the great regret?” Struggling with writer’s block while working on the songs for Wonderful Wonderful, Flowers turned to Bono for advice. Did he have anything left to say? Or had he written his last great song? “Have all the songs been written?” was the subject line of the email Flowers sent to the U2 frontman, who encouraged him to turn it into a song. Fittingly, the track that came from that advice moves gradually from self-doubt to assurance. On the bridge, Brandon’s voice trembles as he tries to reassure himself that the storm clouds surrounding his family will pass and things will be good again. “When the train returns to the rails/When the ship is back in the harbor/I will make you happy again/I can see it, I believe it.” He’s not ready for his Tyson vs. Douglas moment just yet.

    Back in June, when The Killers dropped “The Man” as the first single from Wonderful Wonderful, the song felt oddly tongue-in-cheek for the anthem-obsessed band. A send-up of the aggressive, ambitious masculinity that The Killers—especially Flowers—exhibited early on in their careers, “The Man” felt oddly out of tune with the times. In 2017, society is slowly deconstructing the old ideas of what it means to be a “Real Man.” Yet, here The Killers were, seemingly reinforcing those ideals. In context, though, “The Man” shines a light on the concept and arc of Wonderful Wonderful. Throughout these songs, Flowers realizes that all the macho masculinity in the world can neither help his wife fight her demons nor give their children the love and support they need. Instead, he makes himself vulnerable, being candid about his fears and frailties and being empathetic to his wife’s.

    The result is the most personal and intimate record in the Killers discography. Given all the inspiration from Flowers’ own life (as well as the reduced role for Dave Keuning), it’s also the Killers album that feels most like a solo LP. It’s hard to imagine much being different about Wonderful Wonderful if it was the third Brandon Flowers record instead of the fifth Killers record. Billing and branding aside, though, Wonderful Wonderful is a surprisingly deep and nuanced piece of work from a band not often recognized for being deep and nuanced. The critics still won’t get it, and certain fans will probably miss the rafter-shaking anthems, but after five years of waiting, it’s a pleasant surprise to get something new from The Killers at all—let alone something that feels so brave, so bold, and so unreservedly human.

     
  2. Tried about four times to get into this album over the weekend. Just not happening so far. At the moment: I actively hate it.
     
  3. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Dang! What about it isn't working for you?
     
  4. Everything. Hahahahaha. Seriously. I have nothing positive to say about my four listens.
     
  5. Dirty Sanchez

    Prestigious Prestigious

    This makes Day & Age look like a masterpiece.

    Brandon said he was disappointed with the reception that Battleborn received, damn, I'd hate to know what he feels about this one.
     
    fenway89 likes this.
  6. jpmalone4

    Stay Lucky Supporter

    I def agree this feels more like a follow up to Desired Effect (which I guess it is?) rather than Battle Born, but I disagree about the lack of "poppy immediacy" - I think the bulk of this achieves that, w/ the exception of the intro & outro tracks, which is also why to me it feels more like a Flowers solo album rather than Killers (or at least the more Americana side of their discography).

    I like a lot of this album though, but I wish they explored more of that Battle Born/Sam's Town sound tbh. I've always felt that was a sound unique to the Killers, while these songs feel like they're reclaiming space most alt-pop bands replaced them in nowadays (but no doubt influenced by).
     
    Joel Gustafson likes this.
  7. Honeymagnolia

    Regular Supporter

    Battle Born is my favourite Killers album. Full of hooks and great lyrics. Sam's Town is a definite second.

    The rest have had a few songs I have loved but a lot of filler for me. This one follows this path. Love the personal mid section and Run for Cover but the rest are just a bit dull.

    Great review though.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  8. knstadin

    Regular Prestigious

    Wonderful review! :ok:(no pun intended)

    p.s Can't describe how much I love "Some Kind of Love"!
     
  9. heymattrick

    Denver, CO

    Battle Born is great. I always get so disappointed when bands talk poorly about their older albums when the next one comes out.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  10. transrebel59

    Regular

    Excellent review, great work. Also, for anybody that missed it, The Killers covered The Gaslight Anthem last night.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  11. heymattrick

    Denver, CO


    Here's a video of it. "American Slang" is one of my favorites so this is really cool.
     
  12. Connor

    we're all a bunch of weirdos on a quest to belong Prestigious

    I'm with you. I love Hot Fuss and Sams Town like the other two albums.....but this I actively dislike
     
  13. And I really liked Brandon's solo album.
     
  14. ManBearPuig

    Newbie

    Desired Effect was good. This is terrible.
     
    Serenity Now and fenway89 like this.
  15. Connor

    we're all a bunch of weirdos on a quest to belong Prestigious

    Yeah that was like the best pop album in 2015. I don't think I have a single negative thing to say about that album. I don't know what he was doing here. I don't think artists do them selves any favors when they try and compare an album to their old material. Like I think Brandon said they were trying to be more like Sams Town on this record.....which it doesn't sound like at all. Bands should avoid those kinds of self comparisons but I get that it's who Brandon is. He loves outrageous comparisons.

    I don't know I'd take Battle Born and Day and Age, filler and all over whatever nonsense this is. I was planning on seeing them in February, but now I don't think I want to.
     
    Serenity Now likes this.
  16. DooDooBird

    Trusted

    I am stunned at how bad this album is. Just flat out boring. Absolutely no hooks at all. Sounds maybe like a Flowers b-side solo album or something. I didn't think I'd ever be able to dislike any Killers music, but holy shit this is truly bad and not memorable at all.
     
  17. DooDooBird

    Trusted

    And I loved the two "new" singles that were on the Killers greatest hits album. Shot At The Night and Just Another Girl. Those songs are incredible and I was hoping for more of something in that vein.
     
  18. ComedownMachine

    Prestigious Prestigious

    If it makes you feel better about seeing them they'll probably play 4 new songs tops
     
  19. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Eh, at least this one is cohesive. Day & Age is such an incoherent mess of an album. It has songs I like, but it feels as much like an odds-and-ends collection to me as Sawdust.

    I've seen a few comments about how it has "no hooks." That's false, but the hooks definitely aren't as sharp as they are on Hot Fuss or Battle Born.

    Me too. Once it's out in the world, I kind of feel like an album should be off limits for those kinds of comments. Especially years after the fact. That album seemed to have a pretty good reputation until a year or so ago when Brandon started badmouthing it, and now the narrative is that it's their "bad" record and this is the return to form.

    Thanks! Gaslight cover was awesome.

    The only bad thing I had to say about The Desired Effect is that he left the title track off and it's better than everything on the album.

    Those songs sounded like Battle Born though, especially "Just Another Girl." And apparently the band thought Battle Born was bad, so they were always going to pivot to a different sound.
     
    Dirty Sanchez likes this.
  20. DooDooBird

    Trusted

    It's really a shame they felt this way. Battle Born is just slightly ahead of Sam's Town as my favorite Killers album. That album is exactly how I want them to sound and craft their songs. I knew I was in for a let down by this new album when they released The Man as their lead single and the track did nothing at all for me. Usually their singles are fire.
     
  21. DooDooBird

    Trusted

    To me, Battle Born has everything. A few nice ballads, some catchy up tempo rock songs, beautiful lyrics, great vocals and melody everywhere. Def my fave as well.
     
  22. Barresi Sep 25, 2017
    (Last edited: Sep 25, 2017)
    Barresi

    Spooky Space Kook Supporter

    It's actually their best reviewed, off the bat at least. Hot Fuss and Sam's Town have enjoyed more retrospective accolades, and the Hot Fuss singles were everywhere, but those records definitely weren't critically celebrated.

    Edit: Clarification, I mean Wonderful Wonderful.
     
  23. Kiana

    Goddamn, man child Prestigious

    I keep forgetting to listen to this. I kept forgetting to listen when they released the single too so I haven't heard anything yet but some of y'all are scaring me!! imma go for it tomorrow (if I remember). idk why it is not sticking in my head that they have a new album wtf.
     
  24. circasurviver

    Trusted

    I think I like this more than Day & Age but it doesn't come close to Sam's Town or Battle Born for me.
     
  25. adleon18

    Newbie

    Great review Craig.
    I jump a little when my thoughts are reinforced by texts such as yours, I was just listening to the whole album and my two thoughts were "I really like Battle Born, I can´t believe they think this one is better" and "this sounds more like it is a Brandon Flowers solo album number three with some The Killers songs fitted in the middle".
    With that said, I think that some songs on the album are good, I think "Some kind of love" is a GREAT song, it feels honest and the bass line, though simple, really pulls you into the song and the children singing the chorus works in a really beautiful way.
    I like "Tyson Vs. Douglas" (which gave a "Prize Fighter" vibe, maybe because of the boxing reference) and "Run for Cover" since for me the sound more like what I would expect from The Killers and along with "Some kind of love" are the best songs on the album in my opinion.
     
    Serenity Now likes this.