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September 26, 2017

TEST SPIN: The Killers — Wonderful Wonderful

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I’d be lying if I said The Killers didn’t have a massive influence on the music I listen to today. I still remember the first time I listened to The Killers, back in the third grade when Guitar Hero III was all the rage and “When You Were Young” by The Killers was in the game. Essentially, if it weren’t for The Killers and their 2006 album Sam’s Town, y music taste would not be what it is and I know that they have also influenced many other people, especially after “Mr. Brightside” became an anthem for sober and drunk karaoke, late night drives and most of all, middle school through high school days. However, they had not released an album since Battle Born in 2012, which was not up to par with 2008’s Day and Age. Contrastingly, Wonderful Wonderful seems to hold promise.

Prior to the full album’s release, The Killers had released “The Man,” “Run for Cover,” “Wonderful Wonderful” and “Some Kind of Love” as singles, all which saw success. Overall, Wonderful Wonderful marks either the ending of a book or the beginning of a new chapter for The Killers. It’s almost as if they have grown with their fans and are now a band of retired successful, dads that make amazing music. We can still hear their familiar guitar sounds and expressive lyrics. However, the more spiritual, “grown-up” messages that the lyrics in Wonderful Wonderful convey are what set it apart from Day and Age, Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town. Most of Wonderful Wonderful is about front man Brandon Flowers’s wife — Tana Flowers — and her experiences with complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to a difficult childhood after her mother abandoned her, a theme that strays from previous albums’ youthful, carefree ones.

Without a doubt, the first track “Wonderful Wonderful” is about Tana Flowers’s mental health issues with lyrics such as “Motherless child does, thou believe/ That thine afflictions have caused us to grieve? Motherless Child angels have closed/ Their eyes, thou was thrown away and/ exposed.” However, aside from the fact that the album’s lyrics explore serious themes and conflict, the music is catchy, seamlessly put together and powerful, something that was absent in Battle Born. However, “Wonderful Wonderful” is merely the beginning of Brandon Flower’s heartfelt, supportive message to his wife.

There are so many emotions present in the album that it’s difficult to pinpoint which track is the densest with feeling. However, “Rut” is certainly heavy with raw emotion, history and passion. The song opens with Tana’s autotuned voice singing “Don’t give up on me/ ‘Cause I’m just in a rut/ I’m climbing but the walls/ keep stacking up.” Back in 2005, Brandon Flowers canceled shows he was playing as a solo artist and recently revealed that the reason behind this was because Tana was having suicidal thoughts and he wanted to help and care for her. Mental illness is never simple to put into words, accept or deal with, and when it comes to a spouse or significant other, a looming question of how much they’re willing to “put up with” comes into play, which is what “Rut” delves into. The song is gentle and reassuring, a perfect, beautiful reminder of unconditional support.

Contrastingly, “Run for Cover” is all about politics and Brandon Flowers’s message for the country. Flowers originally wrote the song for Day and Age, but did not put it in the album. He finished writing it for Wonderful Wonderful, so it therefore refers to both current political issues and those from around 2008. The catchy, distrustful song also has a music video which follows a couple’s dysfunctional, abusive relationship. The woman runs away from the abuse as the man chases after her. Eventually, when she appears to be defeated, she throws a Molotov cocktail at his car and watches it burn, which appears to have a deeper meaning given the lyrics and political undertones of the song.

Once more straying from Tana and the heavy emotional theme, “The Calling” explores yet another heavy theme: spirituality and the Bible. The opening lines of the song are a narration from Matthew 9:10-12 and there are biblical references throughout the song, such as “I walked into town with a message for my old man/ I got the last to chapters of Matthew in my hand” and “His feet still quick when they say they want their money back/ But daddy did you think you could outrun the Holy Ghost? Lie, cheat, steal, hope they fix it all up in post.” The whole song is a reference to the Biblical passage in the beginning in which Jesus says that “’It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick’.” The Killers have never shies away from Biblical references. For instance, in “This River is Wild,” is full of similar references, but is more focused on the way that spirituality impact one’s life, whereas “The Calling” deals with morality.

The last track on Wonderful Wonderful, “Have All the Songs Been Written?” features sounds similar to those in “Why Do I Keep Counting,” the penultimate track in Sam’s Town. Just as with “Why Do I Keep Counting,” I foresee “Have All the Songs Been Written?” becoming the song on the album that I only listen to past midnight as I stare at the ceiling and drift off to sleep, listening to the exposed vocals and meaningful lyrics.

The Killers have perfected their own method to album-making over the years, but whereas bands tend to rust and let their music lose quality, The Killers only appeared to have fallen into this cycle with Battle Born, only to bounce back with Wonderful Wonderful.

Viri Garcia is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at vgarcia@cornellsun.com