By Erin Caine
Not many bands today can claim to have released five consecutive chart-topping albums, and yet Las Vegas-based rock icons, The Killers, have managed to do just so.
Their new album, “Wonderful Wonderful,” dropped at the end of September and quickly rose to the top of the UK charts and the Billboard 200 album chart. It was well over a decade ago that the band was propelled into stardom by their 2004 debut album, “Hot Fuss,” which included such instantly recognizable tracks as “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me.”
Their second album, “Sam’s Town,” though originally scoffed at by critics, went on to develop a veritable cult following. (Rolling Stone’s 2009 readership voted it the most underappreciated album of the decade.)
“Wonderful Wonderful,” upon its release, drew immediate comparisons to The Killers’ sophomore effort—even vocalist Brandon Flowers stated that this new album is the closest thing to “Sam’s Town” that the band has recorded since 2006.
The Killers’ 2017 effort begins with its title track, “Wonderful Wonderful,” which winds long, atmospheric synths into its muffled and mellow bass guitar and percussion. Clocking in at just over five minutes, it’s the lengthiest song on the album. With a contrasting dreamy tone and sharp urgency, along with its droning instrumentation, the song sounds vaguely similar in style to Radiohead’s 2016 single “Burn the Witch.”
The second track flips one’s initial impression of the album completely on its head: “The Man,” justifiably the first single, is practically vibrating with ‘70s disco-era bravado and exuberance. All of this surface pomposity, however, is a clever cover for Flowers’ tongue-in-cheek lyrics about macho pride and the vocalist’s own abashed self-reflection. The band tapped producer Erol Alkan to work on this particular track, and Alkan’s history as a DJ in indie London nightclubs is apparent in the rhythmic groove and contagious energy of the song.
“The Rut” is a track with a tone that conjures high school prom scenes in ‘80s movies. The heart-on-sleeve vocals are endearing, and the lyrics are coming from a very personal and vulnerable place for Flowers: he wrote them for his wife of 12 years, who suffers from PTSD. “Life to Come” has a similar weighty ambiance and earnest lyrics as “Rut,” yet takes on a decidedly U2-esque sound; it’s easy to imagine The Killers performing this song in a packed arena somewhere with an impressive lightshow behind them.
Though the album begins to drag in the middle with its handful of generic songs, “Out of my Mind” picks up the energy where the beginning tracks left off, with a sleek, sophisticated mood that invokes flashy images of city nightlife. On the opposite side of the spectrum, “The Calling” has a refreshing style in comparison to the rest of the album: low-country swagger and prominent electric guitar combined with buzzing synths. (Its sound and vigor calls to mind The Black Keys’ 2014 album, “Turn Blue.”)
The final track is a subdued and charming conclusion to “Wonderful Wonderful,” with an equally charming origin story. Frustrated by writer’s block, Flowers sent an email to U2 vocalist, Bono, and the latter suggested that the subject line—“Have All the Songs Been Written?”—would make for a good song title. Though overall a solid and worthwhile effort from the band, the album suffers in places where it’s unwilling to give itself completely over to the eccentric energy that drives standout tracks like “The Man” and “The Calling.”