Day & Age
41:49 min • Island • November 18th, 2008
Can it be only four years ago that The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ ignited indie discos up and down the country? Certainly destined to become regarded as one of the singles of the decade, it still inspires dancefloor mayhem today, with its nagging, incessant chorus lifted straight from Bowie’s old glam stomper ‘Queen Bitch’. Instantly a more attractive (and definitely better dressed) proposition than the other boorish, boring guitar bands noodling about the festival circuit, they seemed more glitter and eyeliner than lager and scuffed trainers. In Brandon Flowers (that name!) they even had a genuine heartthrob for a frontman, all puppy dog eyes and frail Montgomery Clift looks. As debut album Hot Fuss testified, ‘Brightside’ was no fluke either – this lot possessed an uncanny knack for effortlessly turning a tune. Whichever wit it was at the time who described them as the Pet Shop Boys with guitars was right on the money. Hot Fuss sold by the bucketload and a whole new generation realised that modern rock ‘n’ roll need not, god help us, begin and end with the Stereo-bleedin-phonics.
And then, as they so often do, things went a bit wrong when it came round to album number 2, Sam’s Town. In interviews conducted around the time the band started talking up their ambitions to be the next U2. As we know, the absolute First Rule Of Pop states that it is always bad news when bands say they want to be the new U2 and reason enough for the rest of us to make for the hills. In all fairness when the record eventually arrived it wasn’t actually as bad as that, even if it felt weighed down a little by a sense of its own importance. As if to prove some new kind of maturity or masculinity (or something) Flowers even grew an ill-advised moustache. And at the end of the day that’s really what Sam’s Town sounded like – moustache-y. It’s telling that the best bit of the band’s output to come from the period was a remix, with the Pet Shops themselves adding a much-needed bit of disco spit ‘n’ polish to the yearning ‘Read My Mind’.
So what of third album Day And Age? Well, the early signs were certainly encouraging. The rumours (that turned out to be true) were that they were recording with producer Stuart Price, always a safe pair of hands and the man who’d injected so much sparkle into Madonna’s Confessions On A Dancefloor. Meanwhile, pre-release press shots revealed that sometime during recording guitarist Dave Keuning, now wearing full slap and fake fur, appeared to have turned into Marc Bolan. Even better, the same shots showed that Brandon’s moustache has been mercifully consigned to history. As the gorgeous first single ‘Human’ demonstrated, here was a band rediscovering their feminine side. A softly pulsating treasure that keeps threatening to burst into Saint Etienne’s ‘He’s On The Phone’ but never quite does, it instantly stood out among the dross of the current Radio One playlist, even if it does feature one of the oddest pop choruses of all time – “Are we human? Or are we dancer?” I mean, pardon?
The really good news is that ‘Human’ isn’t even anywhere near the best thing on Day And Age. Kicking off with the grooving, brass-laden ‘Losing Touch’, it’s a record of many colours and textures, marking as much of a transition from its monochromatic predecessor as Dorothy falling from black and white reality into the Technicolor world of Oz. ‘Joy Ride’ sounds exactly like funky, mid-period Roxy Music while the 7-minute closer, ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’, recalls Suede at their gloomy, comedown-y best. Even better, in ‘Spaceman’ they’ve at last fashioned an anthem to equal, if not quite better, the everlasting ‘Mr Brightside’.
Because it’s The Killers, Day And Age will probably sell in millions. This time it really deserves to. Again.