Review Summary: All glitz and no grit makes Brandon a dull boy.
Three albums into their career and it’s time to ask the question: How much bigger sounding can The Killers get before they explode? Hot Fuss
kicked off their career with danceable beats and an occasional flair for the bombast that made “Somebody Told Me” and “All These Things I’ve Done” irresistibly lovable no matter how heterosexual you were. With the epic expansion into Sam’s Town
, the occasional flair grew into a full-fledged allegiance to the grandiose, and before our eyes, The Killers went from a charmingly awkward, New Order-ripping British band to an awkwardly awkward, Springsteen-ripping Americana band, complete with pseudo-cowboy outfits and amateur porn moustaches. The record sounded like it was crafted for stadiums exclusively, with abundant synths and nonsensical lyrics about burning down highway skylines replacing the intimacy that made cuts like their best song, “Mr. Brightside,” so addictive. Sam’s Town
hinted that The Killers aren't meant for arenas; that they're best in their original post-punkish shell, with honest lyrics and catchy melodies being the focus instead of overblown production and deep-sounding car metaphors. If Sam’s Town
doesn’t quite prove that theory outright, Day and Age
Impossibly, the third Killers record takes the huge sound of Sam’s Town
and doubles it. The band, clearly under the impression that more brass means more tail, pack Day and Age
with cheap tricks and production gimmicks with the hope that they’ll distract the listener from the fact that the songs are painfully mediocre. Album opener “Losing Touch” announces this point with the subtlety of an oncoming train, as the first notes played on the record are echoing piano twinkles followed by meaty horn chords. Initially, it appears as though The Killers have honed a neat sound that might sound fresh with a bit of a world-flair, until they replicate it on every single track
. For example, “Spaceman” is a “futuristic” song, so it’s drenched in reverb and features a hook that sounds as if it was sung by a universe of people. It’s not clever, nor is it supposed to be. It’s catchy pop that will probably serve as winter's answer to "Viva La Vida." However, it also serves as the marker where the epic productions turn from fun to irritating, and with seven songs still to go, Day and Age
has nowhere to go but south.
Since the production makes the music blur together in a frenzy of synths and horns and whatever other arbitrary facet The Killers can find, frontman Brandon Flowers takes it upon himself to give a performance beyond his usual triteness. He doesn’t. On “Joyride,” which does to Talking Heads what The Killers’ awful “Shadowplay” cover did to Joy Division, the group tosses saxophones, disco bass, and Latin percussion into a pot and stir them into a groove that’s almost catchy enough to mask Flowers’ skin-deep lyrics. As inferable from the title, the song is about joyriding, and as also inferable from the title, it’s pretty cheesy. Despite his massive ego (this is the guy who claimed Panic at the Disco was “dangerous”), Flowers simply doesn’t have the mojo to make a chorus of “When your chips are down, when your highs are low, joyride!”
not sound embarrassingly corny.
In fact, he hardly has the mojo to make any
of his songs not sound embarrassingly corny. As the music on Day and Age
exaggerates the flamboyance of Sam’s Town
, the lyrics of Day and Age
exaggerate the triviality. It was bad enough when Flowers implored his audience ”Don’t you want to feel my bones on your bones?”
, but on Day and Age
, there’s a sneaking suspicion that Flowers has simply stopped trying. He lets obvious and ridiculous clichés like ”Bless your body, bless your soul/ Pray for peace and self-control”
go unedited and stuffs similar colloquialisms into every song until they lose their meaning. Day and Age
shows Flowers at his worst, as he goes around contemplating the world we live in on “The World We Live In,” dropping the Sixties like they’re proof of genuineness (even though he’s never lived in them), and asking the now-famous-but-still-confusing question on lead single “Human:” ”Are we human, or are we dancer?”
Though that line works in “Human” (which is easily the best song on the record), ambiguous-but-meaningless hooks can only get one so far, and Flowers packs Day and Age
with them, making the record an incoherent mess.
Day and Age
ultimately won’t kill The Killers, as it still delivers a good set of singles and finds the band getting promising results from experiments in world-flavored music, such as the monstrously addictive, Ladysmith Black Mambazo influenced (!) “This Is Your Life.” Still, the album holds no weight, which is its biggest issue. It’s big and postured and goes by without saying anything of significance. A lot of the blame for that goes to Brandon Flowers, since he is the voice of The Killers and all, but it seems like his band, drunk with success, doesn't have the slightest idea what to do next. Ironically, in moving away from the robotic vocal style of his band’s first album, Flowers sounds more robotic than ever before. There’s no passion in his voice and he has alarming issues in carrying a tune, as is the case on “I Can’t Stay.” Of course his lyrics, never a strong point for The Killers, are in the tank on Day and Age
, and since the music can’t back him up, the results are predictably messy. On “Neon Tiger,” which oddly embodies the spirit of the album, Flowers sings ”Straight from the poster town of scorn and Ritz/ To bring you the wilder side of gold and glitz.”
The line serves as a sad reminder of the idea behind Day and Age
and may be Flowers mocking his own self inflation, reflecting upon the how his music had its soul sucked out and maybe- just maybe- feeling regret. But probably not.