In the chorus of “Rut” — the third song off The Killers’ new album “Wonderful Wonderful” — front man Brandon Flowers croons against a catchy beat, “Don’t give up on me / ‘cause I’m just in a rut.”
And it’s hard to hear the words as anything other than a direct plea to the listener from Flowers himself.
The Killers’ last album before the Sept. 22 release of “Wonderful Wonderful” came almost exactly five years ago, and was — according to Flowers — not good enough. And after that lackluster release in 2012, pressure was on for another album, one that would maybe live up to their 2004 debut — a feat the band has yet to accomplish, even with “Wonderful Wonderful.”
The band released the album’s first single, “The Man,” back in June to mixed reviews — long-time fans seemed to hate it, while casual listeners seemed to enjoy it.
“The Man” is a funky jam, complete with an overpowering synth beat and backup vocals. The song sounded a lot poppier than what many expect of The Killers, and used simple lyrics to play a cocky character. A clear tongue-in-cheek nod to Flowers’ more egotistical days when the band first formed, the song entertains but lacks any real substance.
And although “The Man” feels fluffy, the rest of the album does contain a few standouts. “Run For Cover,” situated at the middle of the album, immediately comes to mind as one of these. It sounds like a classic Killers’ song, likely because the song was in fact an old b-side.
The lyrics feel relevant, if at times slightly corny — “He’s got a big smile / he’s fake news” — but it works anyway. The song has a tune reminiscent of one that could have made an appearance in the band’s early work, with lyrics that reflect on what it feels like to be in danger in modern-day America.
The most sentimental song on the album, “Life to Come,” sounds like it could have fit into the band’s sophomore album, “Sam’s Town.” The song features a more emotional Flowers, which is arguably where he’s the strongest.
“Wonderful Wonderful” sounds its best when it’s attempting to sound like music The Killers have already made, even when it doesn’t quite live up to that previous standard.
Of the band’s four original members, all of who worked on the album, only two are going on the album’s tour. While a statement from the band said they remain on good terms, can the band really be at their peak when performing without the guitarist, Dave Keuning, who came up with the legendary opening riff of “Mr. Brightside?”
“Mr. Brightside,” the hit that launched the band to fame, has somehow consistently been on the UK top 100 charts at some point during 11 of the 13 years it’s been out. It has become a pop rock anthem that, it seems, will never die.
And it’s not like The Killers were a one-hit wonder. They had other songs from their first album, like “Somebody Told Me,” another popular one, and “All These Things That I’ve Done,” the near-ballad whose refrain of “I’ve got soul / but I’m not a soldier,” could singlehandedly fill arenas with fans ready to croon the words back to their originator.
The band’s second album, “Sam’s Town,” while not the commercial success of “Hot Fuss,” established the guys as a more serious rock band, one which had things to say and wrote lyrics that were sometimes compared to U2 and Bruce Springsteen.
The Killers won’t die a forgotten band, and no one will be denying their success, but the question remains whether their best days have come and gone. They still fill stadiums and headline festivals, but it’s unclear whether their music will reach the greatness they just began to tap into with their early work.
It would be cruel to say all hope is lost — “Wonderful Wonderful” is a good album, with songs worth dancing to and lyrics worth thinking about. And it’s better than their last album in many ways, so an upward climb is in sight. And Flowers says it himself — he’s only in a rut. He doesn’t want us to give up on him because ruts can be gotten out of.
It’s the closing song on the album that really gives Killers fans hope. “Have All the Songs Been Written,” pondering exactly the question posed in the title, has the potential to read as the band feeling sorry for themselves, but instead comes across as a desire to keep trying.
With the right momentum and the right moment in time, the band has the potential to not only meet the level of their early work, but to exceed it. And in the meantime, while they hopefully work on getting there, they’ve given us some jams. Flowers says it himself as the album comes to a close.
“Have all the songs been written? / Oh I just need to get one through to you / I just need one more.”