Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Killers: Sam's Town

Slight variation for the second installment of IRTRTCMM, but only inasmuch as I feel my opinion about this subject metamorphosing daily.

I'm not a huge fan of The Killers, as previous posts can demonstrate.  I go back and forth on them.  Hot Fuss was way overrated.  Sam's Town is the kind of half-assed concept album you'd expect from a band that hasn't really got anything to say.  And Brandon Flowers is a genuine, Grade A dick; his candor is the only aspect of his public persona worthy of respect.  All of this vitriol culminated in a generally anti-Sam's Town sentiment amongst reviewers.

I'm here to call bullshit.

Sam's Town is a far more consistent record than Hot Fuss.  Sure, none of the songs are as good as "Mr. Brightside" or "Somebody Told Me," but it's got the same glitzy, danceable pop sound as before.  It's still a Killers album, and identifiably so.  It may have deviated from the first verse a bit, but how does that make it any different from every other follow-up to a multi-platinum debut ever?  Can't we, as a nation, find at least one new angle for criticizing sophomore albums?

The thing that I find most off-target is this Bruce Springsteen obsession.  Apparently all you need to do to get a message out there nowadays is provide it in your press kit, because half the reviews out there make some mention of Springsteen as B-Flow's primary influence.  Of course, they weren't amused.  "Euhhh, well it's not Springsteen."  Oh, you think so, Doctor?  Was it the dance beat that tipped you off, Monsieur Poirot, or was it the disco high hats?  Did anyone seriously confuse "Don't you want to feel my bones on your bones / It's only natural" with anything in Springsteen's catalog?  The connection isn't as big as it looks.

If anything, it's the lyrics that caused all of this outrage.  But it's not even about sounding like Springsteen as much as it's about Flowers' persona.  He got cocky beyond what he should, and now in failure the critics are letting him have it beyond what they shouldSam's Town wasn't even the biggest Springsteen rip-off to be released that day, and yet Flowers gets crucified for failing to reach The Boss' level.  But he doesn't need to write good lyrics.  He's a radio star.  Does it even matter what he's talking about?  So he throws in the odd ham-handed reference to a back roads or Jesus, or both, instead of being sarcastic about shiny transvestites or whatever.  Who cares?

If you're gonna break Sam's Town down that far, you'll find that the real problem isn't a Springsteen complex, but a Sgt. Pepper complex: they think they've been more theatrical than they actually have.  That's primarily due to the intro/outro tracks.  Both deviate from the musical feel of the surrounding tracks, break the fourth wall, and get overly cute, but in the end they just sound stupid and graceless.  "We loved to have you with us / even if it's just for the day," eh?  Good lord.  Despite being brief mistakes, they are prominently-placed mistakes, accomplishing little besides distracting from all the things they did so well between the two bookends.  Sigh.

Regardless, pop albums don't need to withstand that level of scrutiny.  The truth is that Sam's Town still works... mostly.  It's fun, it's still The Killers, and it will succeed enough to keep The Killers at the top of the A-list.  I'm just sick of the backlash.

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