The Killers
Sam's Town


3.5
great

Review

by Amanda Murray STAFF
October 3rd, 2006 | 22 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Hot Fuss minus filler and British affectation, plus Americana and more consistent songwriting equals a great record from the band destined to be our U2 - for better or worse.

I won't pretend to know much about Americana, Las Vegas, or burning/blowing/falling/turning hills/clouds/hurricanes/rivers, but I do know pop music. I’m the farthest thing from a Springsteenphile but I know New Order like the back of my hand. In many senses, I equate with the Hot Fuss-era Brandon Flowers – my musical taste inevitably revolves around British pop music, whether it’s the Beatles, the Smiths or the Spice Girls. In general, American music lacks the wit and self-effacement of its British counterpart; too often artists fail to see the humour in depravity, the style in tawdriness, the absurdity in taking oneself too seriously. For their part, Brits don’t recognise the importance of songs about highways. Consequently, the two most significant cultures in the world continue to operate in separate spheres. A group like the Arctic Monkeys or Oasis is distinctly British, and an artist like Bob Dylan is American through and through. Girls Aloud will never work in America, nor will Toby Keith ever conquer England.

Still, in a world of globalisation, transatlantic cultural overlap is inevitable. The Beatles and Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello and Blondie, Franz Ferdinand and the Killers –they all rose to considerable fame and renown outside of their home country coincidingly. Of course, the Beatles were just copying Americans like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran, just as the Killers imitated British artists like Duran Duran, New Order and (thematically) the Smiths on their debut. The Killers were praised for their levity and gaudiness, but also the beyond-tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating affectation of Flowers – all traits that are as British as Anglicanism. Understandably, the group was regarded much more fondly in England than in America; while “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside” were substantial hits states-side, it wasn’t until the release of the third single “All These Things That I’ve Done” that the band was given any considerable respect or attention. The Killers revitalised and updated a genre that never really caught on in America, outside of singles, and made it hip. After developing an image, sound, and style that worked on both sides of the Atlantic on only their first record, what else was there to do? Why, throw it all out of the window. British pretension is so 2004. Flowers and co. digested some Springsteen records, holed up in a Vegas studio (appropriately nestled in a casino), and declared their efforts the greatest thing this side of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”.

Ditching glitter, hot pink jackets and lip gloss for bolo ties, snakeskin blazers and Colonel Sanders facial hair, thematically Sam’s Town seems intent to introduce us to America, land of the gimmick, in place of a Lonely Planet guidebook. The title Sam’s Town is itself a good indication of what lays ahead on the record. Named after a seedy casino in a seedy section of the seediest town in America, Sam’s Town shows the “real world” laying beneath the glitz, glamour and gluttony that is Las Vegas (and America). Think of Hot Fuss as the Las Vegas Strip, the fun and frivolous lap dance your wife doesn’t ever need to know about. But beneath is another world. The Killers would like to introduce us to this world, the “land of the free ride”. But no, it doesn’t mean we’ll get a view into the imbalance of American life, the struggles of a working class existence, the hollowness of a fabricated tourist town. No, we get to hear about deserts. Red, white, and blue? Check. Four of July? Check. Wind, highways, mountains, rain? Check. Yet these keywords are as much a part of the American myth lexicon as meritocracy, liberty, equality and so on, and none really affect day-to-day life of Americans or others. So at the end of the day, it’s as much a pretense as Hot Fuss, only with less dancing and ambisexuality and more twaddle about elements. The nonsensical nature metaphors don't lend well to relatability, but if you're searching for enlightenment by way of a Killers record you deserve what confusion you get.

As an album it bests Hot Fuss emphatically. While it may not have the instantly memorable singles like "Mr. Brightside" and "All These Things I Have Done", as a whole it is consistent and the heights of "Bones", "When You Were Young", "The River Is Wild" and several others combine for a much more memorable effort than Hot Fuss. The album opener and title track sets the stage even more so than the “introduction” of “Enterlude”, and by the time Flowers declares, “I see London, I see Sam’s Town”, the thematic separation between the British-influenced Hot Fuss and this record are clear, but musically it is tough to buy. No matter how much they’d like to assert their new-found American identity, with each warble of the synthesiser, the line between influences blurs further. “When You Were Young” has received ample airplay, and rightly so, but the song is the sole clear hit on the record. Perhaps because it is the one which would be most at home on Hot Fuss, with a guitar hook not far divorced from that of “All These Things” and lyrics which, at the very least, improve upon the “shut up, shut up” refrain of “Andy, You’re a Star”.

But even if they’re not surefire radio hits, the remaining songs are strong, something Hot Fuss can’t claim past the fifth track (when was the last time you had an urge to listen to “Believe Me Natalie”?). “For Reasons Unknown” and “Read My Mind” have relatively weak verses, but the choruses shine. Admittedly, verses are not the strong point of the Killers, especially as this is where lyrics are generally the focal point, and Flowers has little writing prowess. “Uncle Johnny” is reminiscent of “Andy, You’re a Star”, and “My List” is heavily reminiscent of something I can’t place, but it probably sucks.

Aside from the definitive hit in “When You Were Young”, other highlight songs are second single “Bones”, which thrives in its absurd frivolity (“don’t you want to feel my bones on your bones? It’s only natural”) and the giddy brass-backed chorus with which I can’t help making Wham! comparisons. “Bling (Confession of a King)” has the dumbest title this side of “Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll” but propelling bass powerfully directs the song, and overall “it’s not so bad”. “This River is Wild” takes the nature themes a little further than anyone needs to hear, and the chorus borrows a little too heavy from Morrissey’s “Wide to Receive”, where he croons “I don’t get along with myself, and I’m not too keen on anyone else”, (and Flowers comes up with “should I just get along with myself? I never did get along with everybody else”), but melodically the song is rendered one of the best on the record.

Ultimately, whether the musical growth is attributed to excessive U2 and Springsteen aping, or just natural progression from a young band on the up, is worth extended consideration. It is both disposable pop and anthemic stadium rock (which is euphemistic for disposable pop by blowhards, truth be told), but regardless of what label you'd apply to Sam's Town (and thus how you'd approach the record), it deserves to be classified as a "good" record, at the very minimum. Like many new pop releases its concept irks me, both in theme and execution, but the music leaves little to be desired. In a sense, Hot Fuss might have been The Joshua Tree of our generation, in its lopsidedness, its anthemic tendencies and its howling egotistical lead singer. What then, to make of Sam's Town? Though it's too early to draw final conclusions, the Killers can rest safely knowing it isn't their Pop, regardless of what masochistic critics might like you to believe.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
October 3rd 2006


2806 Comments


OSHI battle of the mod reviews.

I won't be checking this out.

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
October 3rd 2006


1588 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't know, I keep feeling lately that some of Sylvia's reviews, and your last few reviews have been making far too many points in the conclusions. I mean, if there was anything I could agree with and recognise wholeheartedly in Sylvia's review, it was from the conclusion where he said:

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.

Your review makes me :-/. The whole third paragraph just seems to flop about, making a bold statement, then dwadling for 7-8 lines.

You two are both known for long introductions, and I won't fault you for that. But it just seems like all the strong points you make, are just one-liners before you two ramble on about one shaky point for ages.

They're far from bad reviews, but I just don't feel they're your best. Either of you.

As for the album, I like the single. The opening song is great too, the whole verse where he sings "Nobody ever had a dream round here, but I don't really mind......" Bling (Confessions Of A King) is a great song title :p, and although the intro made me cringe at first, its growing on me. What I think I agree with most is when Sylvia commented on the lack of spontaneity. But then he said optimism is clearly felt right through the album. Then I listen to the single, and I'm like, man I don't feel the optimism. Neither does the music video for it (which I really like) feel optimistic.

I don't know where to go with this comment, as both are decent reviews (especially compared with some of the retarded reviews on other websites). Both reviews will get over 10 ticks, and probably no people saying the review wasn't helpful. But even just this one time, I think I'll question whether they deserve it.

I guess I'll enter the ring and review this, once I've completed my back-log of promised reviews. Sam's Town review coming in 2 years!This Message Edited On 10.03.06

morrissey
Moderator
October 3rd 2006


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Alright well this is the second review in a row I've had people complaining about long introductions and pointless rambling. But I thought the third paragraph was where the actual review got started.

I don't know, I could easily cut out the first 2-3 paragraphs and have a review solely talking about the music, but I like to bring in other topics - their debut, their growth/change, and I think the distinction between British and American sounds is a pretty important distinction to make, especially with a band that straddles the line like the Killers. Maybe I'm just not being clear enough in my review, I'll look at editing it.

But thanks for the criticism, as Sylvia said it's better than "good review" even if it isn't.

The Jungler
October 3rd 2006


4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

There are some really fantastic tracks on this record. Its definitly better than their debut, but I'm not sure how much right now.

Good job on the review, Morrissey.

lunchforthesky
January 21st 2007


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This review has my favourite introduction ive read on the site

lunchforthesky
January 21st 2007


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It deserves far better i agree.

morrissey
Moderator
February 12th 2007


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yo Lib review this. :mad:

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
February 12th 2007


1588 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If my Spice Girls review proved anything, its that I don't put much effort in when I review stuff you want me to.

morrissey
Moderator
February 12th 2007


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So make up for it!

(also your spice review was mad chill)

BigHans
December 10th 2009


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I thought this review was fantastic. Love the pop culture comparisons.

CaliginousColors
October 23rd 2013


159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pretty solid album with a lot of great tracks.

toxin.
December 6th 2013


12776 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

when you were young is the best thing the killers will ever write

Parallels
December 6th 2013


6643 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

wrong

on top acoustic and piano version is the best thing by the killers


toxin.
December 6th 2013


12776 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

hm
will check out and report back

toxin.
December 6th 2013


12776 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

reporting back:
good song
when you were young is the best thing the killers will ever write [2]

Parallels
December 6th 2013


6643 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

wrong [2]

toxin.
December 6th 2013


12776 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i think i listened to a crappy version, all i could hear was a horribly out-of-tune piano

PunchforPunch
December 6th 2013


6280 Comments


acha acha nehi nehi

Spare
August 25th 2014


5360 Comments


did u guys know that this album is actually incredible

tommygun
August 25th 2014


25118 Comments


yep dug the heck out of this when it came out

a great time to have just got me licence and drive around blasting when you were young

Digging: Banks - Goddess



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