Why have a Top 10 when you can have 11? The first in our new series of countdowns looks at the essential tracks from The Killers
The Killers have been through many lives but all of them have been huge. Whether sliding across indie dancefloors with Hot Fuss, blasting the dust off the Midwest with Sam’s Town, reinventing disco through the 10s or rebooting Bruce in the 20s, the Las Vegas outfit deal almost exclusively in everything bigger than everything else. The choruses, the melodies, the arrangements, Brandon Flowers’ handsomeness, they all just seems to keep increasing exponentially towards infinity.
Ahead of their UK tour, we took stock of their seven studio albums and weeded out the absolute best of the best.
Grammar quibbles aside, ‘Human’ is the indisputable high point of Day & Age. Over four glorious minutes, Flowers draws a surprisingly short and direct line between Springsteen and The Pet Shop Boys. If there’s a middle of the Venn Diagram between PSB, Bruce and The Killers, it’s filled with choruses as big as this.
10. Somebody Told Me
Sometimes a little time does wonders for your perspective on a song. You might have thought you’d had enough of ‘Somebody Told Me’ after the 35th time a fellow indie disco patron spilled a pint of Carling down your back while shouting an approximation of the chorus. Revisited 18 years later, you can hear exactly why it produced such a visceral reaction at the time. It takes all the angular 2004 post punk disco vibes of We Are Scientists and Hot Hot Heat and weds them to a hook more relentless than the T-2000. Lots tried, but nobody did this kind of thing anywhere near as well as The Killers.
9. My Own Soul’s Warning
The Killers don’t make bad albums, but even with that as context, quite a few people were taken by surprise by exactly how good Imploding The Mirage was. You can hear all of its component parts on Sam’s Town, Day & Age and Wonderful, Wonderful but the band’s sixth studio album is the moment when they suddenly figured out exactly how they all fit together. ‘My Own Soul’s Warning’ is more than a warning, it’s a manifesto nailed to a church door. That hushed intro and reverby guitar draws you closer to the stereo, before sleigh bells and a drum fill lifted directly from Born To Run propel the song skywards. Then there’s that chorus, a true sun-through-the-clouds, come-to-Bruce moment.
Brandon Flowers had already duetted with one huge influence in Neil Tennant, so it was inevitable that he’d eventually team up with Bruce, generally a keen collaborator himself. The time couldn’t have been any riper in the wake of Pressure Machine, the Killers’ most overtly Springsteen record. ‘Dustland’ would have fit neatly on that record, but warrants its own space. Bruce’s throaty roar can sometimes overwhelm other singers, but Flowers is up to the challenge.
7. All These Things That I’ve Done
Honesty moment. I never had an issue with the “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” line. It mightn’t stand up to scrutiny but it’s still immensely fun to shout out loud and ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ builds to such a satisfying and triumphant climax that you’d forgive it even if it said: “I’ve got jeans but I’m not a genie.” Dave Keuning’s guitar tone is sheer perfection, Flowers’ voice has double its normal swagger and Ronnie Vannucci’s drumming swings like nobody’s business.
6. When You Were Young
The Springsteen influence wasn’t hugely evident on The Killers’ debut, but it suddenly leaps to the fore on this standout from their follow-up, Sam’s Town. Mind you, Bruce isn’t the only stadium rocker who springs to mind on ‘When You Were Young’. There’s more than a little Bono and U2 in the production, the scale of Flowers’ vocal performance, and the incongruous mention of Jesus in the chorus. It’s pure bombastic bliss.
5. Mr. Brightside
The Guardian recently wrote that this country has three national anthems: ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Three Lions’ and ‘Mr. Brightside’. Good luck finding anyone who hasn’t heard all three. It’s not hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about ‘Mr. Brightside’ that elevated it above all the other four-to-the-floor indie anthems of the early 00s. It has hooks for days and its natural habitat is being hollered by thousands of people in a sun-kissed stadium. If you’ve never witnessed the way the air changes when they launch into it live, you owe it to yourself to find out.
4. In The Car Outside
The Killers turned inwards on Pressure Machine, a record that calls to mind Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Nebraska and occasionally The War On Drugs’ I Don’t Live Here Anymore. In fact, it was somewhat inevitable that as The Killers became more considered and introspective and The War On Drugs went in search of bigger endorphin hits that the two bands would find common ground. ‘In The Car Outside’ exists in the middle of those crossroads, a song that searches for an escape from the drudgery of a life too ordinary and, for a second, makes you believe it’s possible.
3. Dying Breed
Imploding The Mirage boasts one of the finest opening stretches of the last ten years. One of the highest points in that stellar stretch is ‘Dying Breed’, a song that somehow leaps from falsetto and synths to full-on Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman at their absolute overblown best. That moment where Flowers yelps “We got EVERYTHING” sounds for all the world like he’s been briefly overcome by the spirit of Meat himself. It’s unabashedly romantic, it’s almost ridiculously huge and it’s utterly tremendous.
2. Quiet Town
At the heart of ‘Quiet Town’ is a dark, fatalistic sentiment that feels kindred to many films and songs about small town America – the idea that there are only ever two options: death or escape. Like so many other things, from drugs to dreams, the train in ‘Quiet Town’ is the facilitator for both, carrying souls to another world one way or the other. It’s one of Brandon Flowers’ most restrained vocal performances, stripped of bravado but filled with yearning. It also boasts some of his most heartfelt and effective lyrics. A truly outstanding spine-tingler of a song.
It’s almost as if The Killers knew exactly how good a song ‘Caution’ is right from the start. The unhurried tension of that atmospheric opening is like a wink in your direction, saying “Hang on, this is going to get good.” We’ve already spoken about big choruses but there is no bigger chorus out there, buoyed up to the heavens by some stunning synth work The third chorus is like a death waltz between Flowers’ voice and those keys, swinging each other harder and higher until there’s nowhere else to go. You go back again, unsure that it was as good as you thought the first time, only to discover that it’s even better.
The Killers are on tour in the UK and Ireland from 24 May to 15 June 2022. Get tickets here.