Review Summary: A great indie rock debut with electronic references, featuring awesome instrumentals, vocals, lyrics, it works. Almost flawlessly.
Hot Fuss by The Killers
This debut from the quartet from Las Vegas, Nevada came out in 2004 and is still played constantly on my stereo and mp3-player. I have quite recently gotten into more and more electronic music, such as Depeche Mode but also some indie rock/pop acts, such as Death Cab For Cutie and Radiohead so The Killers wasn’t very hard to get addicted too.
The first thing I noticed when I put this record on is the use of sound effects that blends in very good with the music. The sound doesn’t feel out of place like bad synthesizer-sounds can do and they doesn’t get annoying. History of this band says that the vocalist Brandon Flowers was in a synth band but got kicked when he refused to move to LA. He then attended an Oasis concert and immediately after this decided he wanted to replace the keyboard with guitar. Although The Killers music doesn’t sound very much alike Oasis’ music the brit-pop feeling is still present at some extent. (Before I knew they were from Nevada I was damn sure they were from Britain).
So what does the first track on Hot Fuss tell us? “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” is a good opener, with synthesizer sound opening up and an explosive guitar riff and some solid bass fills. Flowers’ singing sounds melodramatic and intense and works really well. I’ve heard endless amounts of people claiming Brandon Flowers simply can’t sing, an accusation I really can’t see any substance in. He got an incredible voice that works extremely well with their sound. It’s powerful but yet emotional. The really standout parts of “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” is the occasional bass fills which sounds (at least I visualize it) like a stone thrown in completely still lake. The song ends in an electronic sounding way with synth-riffs accompanying the neat guitar riff. Their biggest hit up to this point follows, named “Mr Brightside”. This is without a doubt their most well known song and that is not really surprising. Simply put, it’s a great song. The amazing but quite repetive guitar-riff drives the whole song, but the real climaxes are the build-up’s this song uses. The intro build-up with the guitar fading in is truly magnificent as well as the outro just before Brandon gets into the amazing vocal ending with “I never…” repeated a bunch of times. It got a quick pace, the instruments as well as Flowers singing but yet it got a really emotional sound and heartfelt lyrics. The guitar fills between the verses and pre-chorus is also brilliant work by David Keuning.
Third song worth mentioning is “Smile Like You Mean It”. Even though not as good as the previous tune, this track delivers. Flowers vocals acts as a backup to the guitars for most parts of the songs. It fades in with the guitar quite slowly at the beginning before the song gets off with an explosive start before going slower again towards the verse. The greatest part is the “bridge” part, the solo is excellent and the interlude after it is pure Killers awesomeness.
Next up is the single that made The Killers hit big in the UK, namely “Somebody Told Me”. Even though I find it the weakest of the first four tracks it’s nowhere near a bad song. It’s rapid, catchy, addictive and well written lyrics. It’s fast paced from the moment it kicks in and the instrumentals are all great over the whole song even though the verses mostly consist of Flowers fast singing.
After this, at first glance of the next track “All These Things I’ve Done” you may think you’re in for a ballad here but despite the slow and mellow intro with a soft keyboard riff and Brandon’s slow and soft singing “when you can’t hold on…. Hold on”. After a small drum- and string build-up, a very effective guitar lead takes over. Flowers singing here is really exceptional as well as his song writing featuring lines such as:
“wanna shine on in the hearts of men
I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand”
“I need direction to perfection”.
In the middle of the song comes to the most unexpected thing on the whole record. The instruments suddenly stop except a twitchy muted guitar riff and only Brandon’s voice singing “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” (At the first listens I thought he sung “I got sober but I’m not a soldier). After this a build-up is used again, with something that reminds me of a gospel(?) choir behind him. It’s a different but yet solid and great song. The last lines before the outro are also a real highlight.
When listening to the first part of this CD, this seems like an instant classic. Not single bad songs after you’ve listened through half the CD! Sadly, a weaker track follows. “Andy, You’re A Star” is the first real slow song of the album. I’m not completely sure why I don’t like this song but it just seems Brandon Flowers voice isn’t made for slow singing. Also, the instruments are not really interesting. It got a sort of jazzy feeling around but placed together with lots of electronic sounds this doesn’t quite work well sadly.
Luckily it’s followed by a more upbeat song. “On Top” starts really electronic with blipping keyboard sounds before drums and guitar fills comes in. The intro and verse are quite mellow and slow but the volume is turned up into a great anthem like chorus that works flawlessly. The guitar that comes in at the chorus is a genius addition that adds a real nice dimension to the whole song. That particular riff is also used as a solo later on in the tune.
After this a completely different songs comes up. “Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll” is another personal favourite of mine. This is the first song on the album you can actually hear the faint Oasis sound (I’m a HUGE Oasis fan by the way, if you haven’t noticed already). The song is built around a slow but yet effective and repetive guitar riff but what really make this a kick ass song are the drums, as well as the excellent lyrics. Ronnie Vanucci’s distinct pounding works extremely well together with the slow-paced guitar riff. My favourite Flowers line on this one is “She plays the drums, I’m on tambourine”. It’s really glamorous indie rock & roll at its best.
The weakest tracks of the album are without a doubt “Believe Me Natalie” and “Midnight Show”. The first one mentioned starts with a drum intro and a very mellow guitar. I don’t like the lyrics on this one, they sound cheesy and repetive. The instrumentals ain’t bad but without the lyrical and vocal greatness I’m used to it doesn’t really appeal me. “Midnight Show” suffers from the same things, it has really good instrumentals but already in the first line can I hear that the song doesn’t work for me. “I know what you want, I’m gonna take you to a midnight show” really sets the standard here. If you like that line, well then the chorus will most likely be your disappointment. It consist mainly of Brandon shouting “drive faster!” followed by wailing.
Ending the album is “Everything Will Be Alright”. It’s undoubtly the slowest and darkest track from “Hot Fuss” and yet again I can only state that Brandon Flowers voice isn’t made for slow songs. This time his voice is also hidden behind an echoing sound effect. The song never really lifts, except a brief piano interlude and it’s not the greatest of endings. Seeing this CD as a whole, the first part really outshines the last part, with a few exceptions.
It features mostly upbeat electronic sounding indie rock and that’s what they do best. Their guitar riffs are really catchy and hook you almost at the first few listens. Their music feels very accessible, fresh and creative and is a nice mixture of genres.
* Top notch instrumentals, especially for a band this “new” and for a debut.
* Some really different and surprisingly good songs.
* Excellent vocals and song writing.
* Weak slower tracks.
Overall Rating: 4/5
(Sorry for the lack of originality here, but this record is a clear 4/5)