The Killers
Sam's Town


4.0
excellent

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
October 1st, 2006 | 116 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist


I can’t gush enough about the packaging of Sam’s Town. I don’t know whether it’s an attempt to appeal to serial downloaders or to small children, probably both, but it’s a really well put-together package. The edges of the case are rounded, baby-proofed, and the case itself locks shut with a small catch that invites you to “press to release.” The band members are pictured on the reverse side dressed, apparently, as professionals of the Old West: bassist Mark Stoermer seems to be impersonating an 1860s apothecary and singer Brandon Flowers adorns an ammunitions sash. Imagine my embarrassment when I glanced down and realised that, sans firepower, I was wearing the exact same outfit!

Speaking of, there’s an awkward passage in the director’s commentary on the classic 1974 Western satire Blazing Saddles when Mel Brooks become temporarily wracked by guilt, recalling the participation of Frankie Laine in the recording of the film’s theme. Laine, while one of the most influential pop singers of all time, had in later times becoming known for singing a number of classic Western themes, including Rawhide, and then Blazing Saddles. Brooks is remorseful because, although Laine actually earned an Academy Award nomination for the recording, he never told the singer that the film was a comedy designed to satirise and challenge the myth of the traditional Western; Laine sang the song with such passion and sincerity that he can only have been humiliated when the picture became one of the most successful comedies of the time.

Without wishing to editorialise too much, the same goes for Bruce Springsteen. It seems to me, for all the On The Road fantasies, left-wing rallies and factory-worker tales, nobody’s ever taken him quite as seriously as he does himself, and it leads an outsider like myself to conclude that, well, perhaps it’s all just a really lame gimmick. As such, the last person I’d expect to buy into it is Brandon Flowers, Anglophile and New Romantic revivalist who redefined the term ‘trendsetter’ in 2004 and 2005 with a record packed with eleven synth-pop singles delivered with the perfect mix of studiousness and irony (or was that twinkle in his eye just glitter?) Flowers has reinvented himself as a wannabe Bohemian, and he may even be trying harder than The Boss.

The Killers’ mega-platinum debut Hot Fuss unwittingly paved the way for a flood of inferior synth pop pretenders. Now, with Sam’s Town, it’s their turn to play the role of the follower. The most notable feature of Sam’s Town is what’s missing: the new wave influence is less obvious, or at least less intentional. Flowers claims that the criticism Hot Fuss garnered for being so “English” inspired to go and actually explore the best of American music. In the process, he fell in love with Born To Run and the American Dream, and the uncertain optimism in Springsteen’s music is expressed clearly right through Sam’s Town.

Gone are the pathetic characters and Morrissey-isms evoked regularly on Hot Fuss and in their place (with varying degrees of success) are tales of redemption and of achievement- the type of subjects loved by people who live in mansions and travel the world in private jets and gondolas, I’m guessing. For instance, 'Read My Mind' sees Mr. Flowers proclaim: ”I never really gave up on getting out of this two-star town.” On album highlight 'Why Do I Keep On Counting?' he expresses similar sentiments in a more cryptic fashion, posing the question: ”if I know my days are numbered, why do I keep on counting?” Second single ‘Bones,’ on the other hand, benefits from exploring slightly more human subject matter in just as direct a fashion: "Don't you wanna feel my bones on your bones? It's only natural."

Musically, as well, the synthesiser is less prevalent and the funky guitar lines are ditched in favour of careful textures (bass drums are, thankfully, still in place). For this we can thank the other great practitioner of self-conscious, calculated Americana: U2. Put simply: if Hot Fuss was the flip-side of the old adage of the “British playing American music and selling it back them,” then Sam’s Town is the new, improved adage- “Americans playing the Irish playing Americans and selling it back to them and selling it back to them.” In other words, the Killers have done exactly what Simple Minds did twenty years ago, except it doesn’t count as selling out anymore.

Guitarist Dave Keuning is flawless in his role as The Edge, making liberal use of the delay pedal and oiling his singer’s underdeveloped vocal chords as he sings choruses in a voice that could almost be mistaken for Bono, before he lost all sense of subtlety. That’s not to say Brandon Flowers is a bad singer, his much-strained vocal is more affecting (to me) than Bono’s more comfortable example, and Flowers’ development of Springsteen’s shaky delivery is the closest thing to an original idea on this album; perversely, Brandon Flowers has once again achieved the impossible and made singing like he perpetually needs to put on a jacket before he becomes a snowman sound awesome. Mood-setter 'enterlude' recalls Neil Young circa-After The Goldrush, frail and uncertain, while the much similar 'exitlude' is sung with confidence and authority in a manner that recalls Lou Reed.

All this being said, the title track and lead single ‘When You Were Young’ could just as easily sit on Hot Fuss as Sam’s Town. The latter, in particularly, is a masterful fusion of the contrasting dynamics, rightly earning comparisons with ‘All The Things That I’ve Done,’ which I still consider one of the bravest singles since ‘Common People’ and destined for classic status; Brandon spews out lines like “we're burning down the highway skyline on the back of a hurricane” with an authority that suggest they actually mean something against a guitar line reminiscent of Coldplay Kraftwerk-rip ‘Talk.’ The chorus line of ”he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus, but he talks like a gentleman” is hair-raising in a way that Chris Martin has almost forgotten to do, and which Bono gave up on in the early ‘90s.

In some ways, Sam’s Town falls in to the same trappings as Hot Fuss did: sometimes it just sounds far too planned and calculated for a rock n’ roll album, exhibiting little of spontaneity of some of the acts they pay tribute to. On the other hand, the songwriting is far more consistent than its predecessor. There may not be as many potential hits on Sam’s Town (in fact, I suspect ‘When You Were Young’ could be the only one), but it does represent somewhat of a diversification. Pop music is often very simplistic: if you can do two different styles convincingly, then you’ve pretty much made it. With Sam’s Town, the Killers have produced a record very different from their debut without losing sight of the essential element that brought them success to begin with: great songwriting.



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user ratings (1252)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
Chunky97 (4)
The Killers' extremely underrated sophomore release may not be the album of the year, but its confid...

Ashleigh Davies (4)
I hope that you enjoy your stay...

simon (4)
Sam's Town is defintely one of my favourite albums for 2006 so far...

Amanda Murray STAFF (3.5)
Hot Fuss minus filler and British affectation, plus Americana and more consistent songwriting equal...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Two-Headed Boy
October 1st 2006


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Fantastic review, and congrats on ROTM :thumb:

I probably won't look into this but I know at least a dozen other people who will.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. for some reason I can't get over the feeling this really is going to be a fantastic album, even before reading this review.

The Jungler
October 1st 2006


4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, the single off this was really really good, but I'm not sure I'll pick this up. The first CD got old fast despite a few good singles.
Rolling Stone trashed this.

Two-Headed Boy
October 1st 2006


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Rolling Stone think Modern Times is a "Classic" album so...

EDIT: Golly, 2222 comments.This Message Edited On 10.01.06

The Jungler
October 1st 2006


4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

They copied Midlake.

I guess AOR is the new indie pop :/This Message Edited On 10.01.06

Wildcatforever
October 1st 2006


441 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really don't like this band at all but I would trust your review more than a magazine review, so I might check a few songs out.

Pyramidman
October 1st 2006


1340 Comments


at first i didnt like Sams Town, but it grew on me really fast

ill definitely pick this up

morrissey
Moderator
October 1st 2006


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fabulous review my fellow American.

I've only heard the first two singles, "When You Were Young" and "Bones" which are both more than excellent. Can't comment on the actual album until I hear it but I'll give it a tentative 1.4 on 4.1

Roscoe
October 1st 2006


29 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review. This isn't quite as good as I was expecting it to be based on the strength of When You Were Young, but it's still solid.

Equus
October 1st 2006


56 Comments


I can't stand the half of this album that I've heard.

go killers?

Hatshepsut
October 1st 2006


1997 Comments


Great review. Not a big Killers fan though, did not like their debut at all.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2006


2680 Comments


Fabulous review my fellow American.

Hahahaha.
Seriously awesome review. I haven't heard anything from this album, surprisingly (as far as I know), but didn't Flowers try to pull a Tom DeLonge and say that their goal for this album was to have it mentioned in the same breath as many 'classic' albums, or was that another band? I forget.

Equus
October 1st 2006


56 Comments


Flowers said that this is one of the best albums in the past 20 years.This Message Edited On 10.01.06

Hatshepsut
October 1st 2006


1997 Comments


Loser.

BrandHagHimForce
October 1st 2006


2 Comments


Also enjoyed the review. Hugely useful and covered all the bases. Just starting to follow the band now as I didn't want to admit I liked them when they first came out. Now, it's a different story seeing that I can't stop playing "When You Were Young" on repeat. After seeing the review, it looks like it'll be worth digging a little deeper into the album.

Oddsen
October 1st 2006


1127 Comments


Great review. It took you a while to get to the pecific songs, but you got their. This sounds pretty good I liked the single too.

morrissey
Moderator
October 2nd 2006


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I downloaded this last night, I've only listened to the full album twice but I think this is a fabulous record. Lyrically it sucks, I can only hear about rivers, mountains and burning hurricanes so many times, but musically this is quite something. Not sure why it's getting trashed by the professionals. "When You Were Young", "Bones" and "Uncle Johnny" are all tops. I'll save my rating after a more thorough listen.

Quirky Turkey
October 2nd 2006


4 Comments


This is getting way better reviews than I expected so I may have to check this out.

The first half of Hot Fuss was stacked with fantasic indie disco and synth pop but the second half was pretentious drivel. 'Indie Rock and Roll' is abysmal

Muisee
October 2nd 2006


679 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The first single "When You Were Young", I thought was a cover of someone, looking at Wiki I guess it is not, I respect them more for making such a great pop hit.

I'll download the album, but it doesn't seem to be on iMesh yet...

iarescientists
October 2nd 2006


5863 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I was surprised this was given a 4. I'm a bit embarrassed to say I love the Killers, cause not a lot of other people I know like them. But I will no doubt pick this up sooner or later.

Amazing review by the way.



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