Earning their fifth consecutive No. 1 on the UK Official Charts with their newest album “Wonderful Wonderful,” Las Vegas rock band The Killers might have finally elbowed their way out of musical purgatory.
Despite a few break-out hits like the nostalgic rock-anthem “When You Were Young,” The Killers have been wandering the valley between indie and punk-rock, authenticity and duplicity, greatness and so-so. The world has struggled to pinpoint just exactly who they are and what they are trying to say. This fifth album states quite plainly that they don’t really know either.
“Wonderful Wonderful,” a reference to the iconic catchphrase of 1950’s “champagne music” host Lawrence Welk, is a name-dropping, self-deprecating ode to the vainglory of a rockstar. In the album’s debut single, “The Man,” lead, Brandon Flowers, sings “I got skin in the game, I’m a household name.”
The song struts with eighties’ club funk and is unquestioningly the most successful moment on the record.
While the band’s newfound sense of humor is refreshing, their sound still comes off as stale. With simplistic garage rock vocals of The White Stripes and heavy handed blues harmonies of The Black Keys, their boyish wit seems to have also rubbed off on their maturity as musicians, receding into a cover-band recording out of someone’s basement.
There are, however, a few moments in the album when the mask comes off, and Flowers addresses his own personal demons with moving earnestness. In “Tyson vs. Douglas,” he speaks to the fears of fatherhood and the pressure to maintain an air of strength in his children’s eyes. “Rut,” an airy, melancholic ballad discusses the torment of watching someone you love cope with depression. In the chorus, Flowers writes: “don’t give up on me, I’m in a rut, I’m climbing but the walls keep stacking up.”
Although the lead has been open about the song’s inspiration, it could certainly be otherwise interpreted as a comment on the band’s past immobility within the music scene.
Such flashes of empathy and soft— falsettos do help to round out the record and identify the overall message of “Wonderful Wonderful” to be one of unapologetic candor. That is until you get to “Run for Cover,” an anti-Trump number which could have benefited from a touch more subtlety, considering the phrase “fake news” can be heard wedged into the bridge. Once again, The Killers have brushed shoulders with resolution, only to wander their way back into the valley of uncertainty.