November 9, 2006

Leaving Their Sound Behind

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The best way to explain the phenomenon of Sam’s Town by the Killers is to say that it turned me into the cliché parent of a family sitcom aimed at tweens, something like Clarissa Explains It All. It’s not that I’m angry; I’m just, well, disappointed. I was a consummate fan of the glitz rock that Vegas’s most famous Mormons had perfected on Hot Fuss, and I was so hoping that they would remain true to their irreverent glam style that had catapulted them to the top of the charts in 2004. This summer when they released their first single “When You Were Young,” I could sense a shift, but I was still optimistic that the October release of their sophomore effort would stay faithful to what made the Killers the Killers: synths and whimsy
I was horrified when I put the disc into my iTunes to discover that the Killers have, in fact, lost what it is that made them the Killers. In their search to channel Bruce Springsteen they started to take seriously their newfound conversion to the gospel of the Boss. If they mention the wind blowing in their faces once more, my head will implode.
The simple fact is that lead singer Brandon Flowers does not have the voice to be able to sing like he tries to. He strains a lot more on this album, especially audible on “This River Is Wild” when his voice cracks two minutes into the song, and on “Exitlude” as well about thirty seconds in. He’s also most likely the least charismatic of any lead singer today, or ever, so for him to convince us that Las Vegas is the glorious, beaucolic homeland of Americana behind which “Uncle Jonny tried cocaine” is just farcical.
But, I concede that upon further listens, I have grown attached to the smattering of synth that is Sam’s Town. The ridiculously titled—since they’re actually serious about it — “Bling (Confessions of a King)” in particular has grown on me. The glimmers of the promise the band might still have emanate from the buried comedic touches of the album, such as in “River.” After 2-and-a-half minutes of singing “run for the hills before they burn,” Flowers tells the story of Adam and his mom that’s a remnant of the “Midnight Show” Killers I miss.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that if you ignore most of the hollow lyrics on Sam’s Town, and the fact that Brandon Flowers can’t sing … and also half the songs in their entirety, then the album isn’t completely worthless. But I wouldn’t make any hot fuss about this one.