Review Summary: Just off target
The Killers are one of the most frustrating bands of the last twenty years. When lead singer Brandon Flowers and the rest of the Las Vegas based band write a great song – usually the ones that are incessantly catchy, have cool instrumentation and on point vocals – it sticks in the listener’s head like green on grass. On the flip side, when they write and record a bad song, it sticks out like a sore thumb, often leaving casual listeners disgusted, and devoted fans trying to understand what the band was possibly thinking. Not only are the Killers a better singles band than they are an album band, there is also very little middle ground in terms of quality and style with them, which makes their studio albums lop-sided - making the prospect of a greatest hits album seem like a natural choice.
, the greatest hits album released by the band a year after their fourth studio album, Battle Born
, ends up being a quality song for song retrospective of the band’s first ten years together that rightly focuses on the songs the band released as singles. As a stand-alone compilation, however, Direct Hits
comes off as being not only unnecessary, but also not really complete. The track order provides no surprises by going in chronological order, taking the listener from the British new-wave inspired pop gems of Hot Fuss
, to the Americana inspired and criminally underrated Sam’s Town
, the spacey and un-even Day and Age
, and the relatively unremarkable, anthem heavy Battle Born
. All of the songs culled from the band’s Hot Fuss
and Sam’s Town
eras are of very high quality, with some, including the band’s signature songs “Mr. Brightside,” “All These Things That I’ve Done,” and “When You Were Young” still holding up as their most impressive works. The songs chosen from Day and Age
and Battle Born
are a nice supplement, even if there is a marked, noticeable drop in quality and originality. “Spaceman,” a quasi-sequel to Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” stands out as the highlight from the latter half of this collection, combining the band’s love of synth-pop with Flower’s uncanny ability to create interesting Springsteen-like stories with his lyrics. The rest of the tracks included from the band’s last two albums are nothing worse than solid, but probably will not convince or inspire any new listeners to dig deeper into the latter half of the band’s discography.
This album also includes two new tracks recorded by the band specifically for this compilation. Both of these songs, “Just Another Girl” and “Shot at the Night,” are not anything special, having about the same quality as most of the songs from Battle Born
. These two tracks only support the conclusion that the Killers have been caught in the middle between two vastly different musical styles, new wave pop and Americana ballads, for most of their career, and that as a band, they are unsure about where to go next. The deluxe edition adds a demo of “Mr. Brightside,” a completely useless remix of “When You Were Young,” and another anthemic album track from Battle Born, “Be Still,” but all three of these are completely unnecessary to even bother with. I could go on and discuss some questionable absences from Direct Hits
(“Jenny Is A Friend of Mine,” “Under the Gun,” “This River is Wild,” “On Top,” “Bones,” “Don’t Shoot Me Santa,” the Flowers’ solo efforts “Crossfire” or “Only the Young”) that ultimately would have been better choices than any of the last five tracks on here, but overall, as a career retrospective, Direct Hits
does the job of summarizing a band that has had its share of highs and lows fairly well.