Blender Magazine October 2006

Yankee Doodle Dandies

About five miles off the strip in Las Vegas,Theres a casino called Sam's Town.Popular with locals,hopelessly unsexy,it's the kind of place where a band as stylish as the killers wouldn't be caught dead.But it embodies the american dream:On Labor day 1941,a wandering roustabout named sam boyd blew into town with $80,took a job dealing penny roulette and built himself a gambling empire,of which Sam's town is the flagship.

That's the kind of ambition the killers understand.Late entrants in the new-wave revival of 2004,they strutted onto the scene like showgirls,a burst of sequins and glitter as splashy as the Bellago fountain.singer Brandon Flowers,challenging celin dion as the city's top diva,made no attempt to hide his self regard,accusing other band of riding hiscoattails and name checking Morrissey and Bowie when talking about his own group.And the Killers backed it up:their debut Hot Fuss,sold more than 3 million copies,and Bowie and morrisey pronounced themselves fans-sweet vindicaton.

But even Flowers might have outdone himself when he boasted about the follow up.could sams town really be,as he said,"one of the best albums in the past 20years?"

Lets skip the suspense:It isn't.but it is very good.recorded at a casino in Vegas,sams town is a homecoming both literally and figuratively.after two years of touring,"we've gotten in touch with how much we love america,"flowers told blender,and he populates the songs with apple pie arche types-grandma dixie,uncle jonny,a brother who was born on the fourth of july.If their last album,with its gloomy anglophilia and faux engish accent,was manchester,this one is more like main street.

An obvious sign of that is mr.born in the usa himself bruce springsteen,the bands new favorite name drop.Flowers just turned 25,the age springsteen was when he made born to run,and sams town burns with a similarly yearning to make a capital s-statement.but aside from a few quivery vocal ties and lyrics about two-lane blacktop,it doesnt sound like the boss.It sounds like euro rockers trying to sound like springsteen-in other words,U2.

U2 also made a selconsciously american epic,the joshua tree,which spawned three hits.and flowers sets his sights just as high:of the dozen songs(including bookends "enterlude"and "exitlude"),half would sound great over closing credits.on the galloping "bling (confessions of a king)"he stretches,Bono like.the the edge of his range.giving voice to unamed existential ache.the swooning Bones spins an explicit seduction tale over multitracked vocals and bull dozing horns,while Dave keuing jump starts "uncle jonny" with scuzzy,power drill guitar.best of all is the thrilling first single"when you were young' a cyclone ride of insta nostalgia that takes in jesus and the devil,and has a hook as bis as both.

That scale is telling.for all its sonic grandeur,hot fuss worked n miniature:a couple argued in the rain,a jealous lover sat daydreaming about his ex and her new beau,androgynous twentysomethings traded whispers in the moonlight.but sams town sees the world in sweeping cinemascope;mountaind,deserts,rivers,horizons,heaven.there's only one love song,and except for the plodding power ballad "my list" theres never a static moment.

Flowers greatest strenght-besides his cheekbones-is a capacity for self invention:for a mormon kid from the middle of the desert to cast himself as a british dandy,then pull it off,is character acting of the highest order.his new persona is also a myth,but it suits him better.yes,there are moment of ridiculousness (lines about the bonfires of trust and flash flood of pain) but sams town and sams town is a place where the difference between reaching and overreaching is as slim as the width of a card."nobodey ever had a dream round here,"flowers sings on the title track,and though it's not true vegas is a city of nothing but dreamers,often to its pathetic detriment it's easy to see why he might think so Like the man said it's a town full of losers,and he's pulling out of here to win.

 

 

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