The year is 2004. Justin Bieber and his faux reggaetón have yet to pollute the airwaves. Instead, dancefloors up and down the country reek of sweat as the driving force that is the voice box of Brandon Flowers reverberates through every nightclub in every town. ‘Mr Brightside’ has spread like a virus, and it, along with half a dozen other hits from their debut album Hot Fuss, has catapulted The Killers to international stardom.
Unfortunately, this almost unrivalled rise to fame has always been The Killers’ downfall. The follow-up, Sam’s Town, despite spawning a couple of decent tunes, suffered from severe second album syndrome, and the band have struggled to live up to the example they first set ever since. Albums three and four were met with mixed feelings, and with Flowers wandering into the musical wilderness to find himself, the future looked uncertain for what had once been one of the world’s biggest bands.
And yet, after a five year hiatus, the group seem to have come back for another round. Their fifth studio album, Wonderful Wonderful has been unleashed upon a mass of expectant fans. But was it worth the wait? Or is it a last-ditch attempt at reclaiming some former glory?
Wonderful Wonderful opens promisingly with its title track, setting the table for an auditory feast ahead. Unfortunately, what follows is a rather bland few courses, made up for by the occasional palate-cleansing sorbet of melancholic soul-searching.
According to the iTunes blurb, Wonderful Wonderful was written amidst the band trying to reform relationships through counselling. Great. I mean, that’s how Rumours came into existence, right? And that remains one of the greatest albums of all time. Sadly, The Killers seem more content to contemplate the negatives between themselves, and thus the usual anthemic joie de vivre that we have become accustomed to has been lost. Indeed, the sole upbeat song on the record, ‘The Man’ (also the first single taken from the album) sounds more fitting of an early Scissor Sisters LP than The Killers’ normal fayre. The second single, ‘Run for Cover’, meanwhile, is solid enough at first, but on closer inspection is almost a carbon copy of Day and Age’s ‘Spaceman’ in every musical nuance.
That said, there are some moments of bittersweet ingenuity amidst the general dirge. As Flowers intones on the third track, ‘The Rut’, “Don’t give up on me, ‘cause I’m just stuck in a rut”. It’s honest, and it’s heartfelt. Likewise, the biblical ‘The Calling’ showcases Flowers’ unique ability to lyrically touch the soul with cultural allusions that are hauntingly familiar, and yet just distant enough to remain accessible. The genius is still there; it’s just going through some shit, and maybe this is the way of coping.
Wonderful Wonderful feels at times like a band desperately trying to hold on to something long gone. Almost a suicide note in the last days of a career. But in that very sense, it’s still full of feeling. Will it live up to multiple listenings? Probably not. After three run-throughs, I can’t see myself going back to this one in a while. Let’s just hope that there is a way out of this rut.
Wonderful Wonderful is available now courtesy of Island Records