Review Summary: How did it end up like this?
I’d like you to close your eyes and see if you can picture where you were when you first heard Battle Born
. A blank slate, right" Well that same cloud of overwhelming indifference has been surrounding The Killers for three consecutive releases now. After the sharp, noticeable decline between the overzealous but entertaining Sam’s Town
and it’s glitzy, substance-less successor Day & Age
, it’s been a streak of mediocrity so potent that one would be hard-pressed to recall anything worthwhile that they’ve done since 2008. In today’s perpetually changing musical climate, that’s a long time to go without making any sort of distinguishable mark. Unfortunately for The Killers, Wonderful Wonderful
simply lengthens that streak, leaving us all wondering if there’s much point at all in continuing to follow the band.
It’s not so much that the record is devoid of any redeeming qualities – ‘Run for Cover’ is a delectable throwback to the group’s ambitious rock n’ roll heyday, while ‘Rut’ possesses endearingly pathetic and most likely unintentional irony ("don't give up on me / cause I'm just in a rut"). Even the scripture-citing industrial pop (yes, you read that right) of ‘The Calling’ serves up some late-album amusement. However, as with Battle Born
and Day & Age
before it, the core of this album is just a remarkably tepid identity crisis. Flowers weaves from one regrettable approach to another, from the faux-soul of the title-track opener to his best Arcade Fire impression on 'The Man' - an 80's themed song that is lyrically ridiculous ("Cause baby I'm gifted / You see what I mean" / USDA certified lean) even if it's more fun than most will care to admit. Honestly, had they just committed themselves to that sort of marketable shallowness, Wonderful Wonderful
could have been played off as a carefree good time. But Flowers has never been able to do that - he takes himself too seriously which is evidenced by the starry-eyed power ballads that fill this album's numerous vacancies. The worst offender is the closer, ‘Have All the Songs Been Written"’, which aside from being the stuff amnesia is made of, simply tries too hard to be poignant without having anything at all to actually say.
And therein lies The Killers' current identity - this insuppressible urge to make a grand statement, fueled by nothing. The band is out of gas and has been for a while now. Wonderful Wonderful
fills the same role as Battle Born
, taking mid-tempo pop-rock with aimless verses and marrying them to one stab-at-the-radio chorus after another. It's a vicious cycle, and it's one that they will likely never break unless they can find the inspiration to make something as emotional as Hot Fuss
or as creative as Sam's Town
again. The smart money says it's not in the cards.