Vegas synth rockers, The Killers, seemed to come out of nowhere in 2004, with their wildly successful debut Hot Fuzz. While that record housed some of their biggest hits, it was the albums that followed that really showed the Vegas-based group’s depth.
UMe and Island have just released two of the group’s best albums on 180-gram vinyl (2006’s Sam’s Town and 2008’s Day & Age), as well as two compilations (Direct Hits, their best of collection and Sawdust, their remarkably uneven B-Side, covers and rarities set). This is the first time Direct Hits and Sam’s Town have ever been available on 180-gram vinyl.
If Hot Fuzz was the band excising their Duran Duran and Muse influences, Sam’s Town was the band discovering everyone from Springsteen to Petty and spiking that synth sound with classic rock. Lyrically and musically, this album is less sterile and more mature then it’s predecessor. While Brandon Flowers still sings some odd lyrics (more on that in a minute), he’s also putting out some of his most thoughtful on this record. You can practically here Springsteen in a line like “They say the devil’s water, it ain’t so sweet/You don’t have to drink it right now/But you can dip your feet/every once and a while” (“When We Were Young”). Elsewhere on the record, “Read My Mind” is a fantastic pop song, from start to finish and so is the more bombastic “This River is Wild”. There are some weaker tracks here and there (like the formulaic “Bones”), but overall a great sophomore record that managed to eclipse their debut.
Sawdust, put out between their second and third studio albums comes of too much like a placeholder for a better record, biding time and the fan’s attention until they can get a proper release out. With 17 tracks, it’s not lacking for material, simply better songs. There are some obvious covers here like Dire Strait’s fantastic “Romeo and Juliet,” covered time and time again by everyone from the Indigo Girls to Edwin McCain, as well as The Killers’ take on “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (best associated with Kenny Rogers) and Joy Division’s “Shadowplay,” but none of the covers manage to impress. There’s also an alternate version of “Mr. Brightside,” but anyone aside from diehard fans and completists would consider this a needed album.
Conversely, the following year, the band put out Day & Age, probably their most underrated record to date. Flowers is back with more head scratching lyrics on this one like the grammatically puzzling line “Are we human or are we dancer” (from “Human”), but damn the song is infectious. And if Michael Stipe can get away without having to answer for decades of odd lyrics, I guess Flowers has earned a pass as well. “A Dustland Fairytale,” in the middle of the record, just may be the best song the band has ever recorded, followed not too far behind by “Neon Tiger,” also off Day & Age.
Direct Hits, the band’s best of collection, first put out in 2013, is exactly as billed. It’s only surprising that it took this long for the label to put this one out on vinyl.
In the rush by record labels to get as much of their catalogs on high quality vinyl, regardless of the merits of the music, three of these four recent efforts from The Killers certainly deserved the re-release treatment.
Sam’s Town / Day & Age / Direct Hits: