Las Vegas rock band The Killers have emerged from hiding after a five-year hiatus.
Last we saw the band, known for packing big choruses into their 80s-influenced alternative rock, they were at the top of their game. The meditation has made the collection of songs on Wonderful Wonderful some of their most personal yet, but are they enough to maintain relevance in a scene taken over by younger bands like Imagine Dragons?
The eponymous album opener is moody and theatrical. A silky and sexy bassline shepherds the listener through the song in the same way lead singer Brandon Flowers sings reassurance to a motherless child. This is the first of many songs about the PTSD Flowers’s wife struggles with since being abandoned when she was young.
Following that is “The Man,” which establishes the second of the two major themes on this record. On this track, Flowers delivers cocksure lyrics of a man who thinks he’s all that (“‘Cause baby I’m gifted/ You see what I mean?/ USDA certified lean”). The in-your-face disco swagger provided by the rhythm section only further drives the point home. Hidden under the surface however is a man unsure of himself.
The track is divisive — it’s much different from anything The Killers have put out. The Let’s Dance-era Bowie influence is palpable, but the self-awareness on display is enough to sell the track.
Flowers further grapples with his wife’s battle with depression on twin tracks “Rut” and “Life to Come.” The former serves as a statement from his wife about her illness: “don’t give up on me, ‘cause I’m just in a rut.” I can commend the track for its subject matter, but can’t help but feel bored by the mid-tempo meandering. “Life to Come” remedies this problem with its more varied guitar work and soaring chorus, but still falls short.
The energy The Killers have been known for has a much harder time showing itself on this album, a problem that also reared its head on previous album, Battle Born. Whether that’s a sign of maturity or slowing down with age remains to be seen.
This problem doesn’t exist on “Tyson Vs. Douglas,” a track that should not work but manages to be the best song on the album.
The mental image of Flowers crying while watching a boxing match on TV is downright ridiculous, but somehow it’s not. Really though, this should be no surprise from the band who could once get away with the nonsense of “Somebody told me/ that you had a boyfriend/ who looked like a girlfriend.”
Flowers turns the 1990 defeat of heavyweight champion Mike Tyson into a lesson learned in the ever-present fear of failure; the epitome of machismo was able to be taken down, and Flowers is reconciling that with his own ideas of masculinity.
“Have All the Songs Been Written,” asks the album closer and this album does a fair job arguing in the affirmative. While the band has shown a tremendous growth in the maturity of their lyrics, their songwriting overall lacks the energy and spontaneity that made songs like “Mr. Brightside” hits.