- Taking it as
THE KILLERS' BRANDON FLOWERS IS TAKING CRITICISM OF BAND'S
LATEST RELEASE IN STRIDE
BY JASON BRACELIN
Las Vegas Review Journal
The Killers' sophomore album, "Sam's Town," saw success its
first week selling 315,000 copies. The disc debuted at No. 2 on
the Billboard album chart behind Evanescence's "The Open Door,"
marking the band's highest position on the chart yet.
Brandon Flowers is milling about the streets of Los Angeles on a
recent Tuesday afternoon when a fan comes up to him and
congratulates the Killers frontman on his band's recently
released new album.
"Oh, thank you very much," Flowers responds warmly, sounding
like he means it.
No doubt he does.
After all, Flowers has been getting picked on in the press of
late, taking his lumps like the smallest kid on the playground.
The Killers' heavily anticipated sophomore LP, "Sam's Town," has
been garnering mixed reviews, getting dismissed as "pretentious
stadium rock" by the New York Times, while Rolling Stone sullied
the disc with a two-star review.
So you can forgive Flowers if he's starting to feel like a pin
cushion in cowboy boots.
"Two stars in Rolling Stone, you know, that's kind of a, 'Here
you go, Mr. Flowers,' " he said. "But it's not going to affect
sales. They wrote terrible things about 'Hot Fuss.' Every
article was these little jabs about the lyrics or how we ripped
David Bowie off -- it was never anything good."
"Listen to 'All These Things That I've Done,' " he continued,
"and what a beautiful, moving song that is -- and I'm saying
that from a listener's (standpoint), not from the person who
wrote it. It's such a wonderful piece of music that moves
people, and people just want to write about transvestites and
whether I'm wearing eye makeup or not."
But as Flowers himself acknowledges, he was the one who affixed
the target to his back by famously declaring "Sam's Town" to be
the best record of the past 20 years before its release.
"I didn't realize that was going to be the reaction," he said of
the critical response to his hyping of "Sam's Town." "But I just
say what comes to me. When I was listening to 'When You Were
Young' every day and 'Read My Mind' every day, that's what I was
"I don't feel bad about it," he added. "I'm not going to put my
tail in between my legs. I'm in a rock and roll band. We're here
to take it as far as we can go, and if we're not trying to make
the best album in the last 20 years, then I don't know what the
hell I should be doing, but it ain't this."
To be fair, "Sam's Town" is neither the disaster that "Rolling
Stone" makes it out to be nor is it the masterwork that Flowers
envisions it as. Instead, the disc falls somewhere between the
two, a driving, huge-sounding record that occasionally gets
swallowed whole by its own ambitiousness.
A more sweeping, textured record than the band's debut, "Sam's
Town" is flush with widescreen rockers like "When You Were
Young" and "Bling (Confessions of a King)," which sound as if
they could be radio staples for years to come, with Flowers
howling about runnin' with the devil and ridin' hurricanes over
swelling guitars and keys.
But the album suffers when it becomes overstuffed with horns and
strings and forced metaphors (When Flowers starts observing that
"the stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun"
the whole thing threatens to veer into self-parody).
Still, The Killers are attempting to move forward, and they
haven't taken the easy route, pushing their sound in new
directions even if doing so means challenging their fanbase and
risking the kind of critical backlash that the band has received
from some quarters.
"We saw bands getting ripped for making their album twice --
you've heard of Franz Ferdinand and these other bands like
that," Flowers said. "And that's scary, because we don't want to
rewrite 'Mr. Brightside.' We want to move on. We feel like we
didn't go too far, but we did change."
That change was precipitated, in part, by Flowers' rediscovery
of Bruce Springsteen, which came about after he heard "Born To
Run" on the radio while driving around in his car one day. Hence
"Sam's Town" is reflective of Springsteen's salt-of-the-earth
ethos and working class bent.
"The best way for me to describe it is that it made me
understand my dad more," Flowers said of his newfound
appreciation for The Boss. "I think the people that Bruce sings
about -- it's always about struggle and not getting there, and
that's my dad."
"But it also glorifies people in a way that they're not
glorified anymore, for raising families and just trying to get
by," he continued. "That's gone out the window. People want
artists now who write songs that usually put those people down,
refer to them as zombies. (Springsteen) went into their towns
and into their houses and wrote songs about them and humanized
them. I really liked that."
So, considering that Springsteen has had such a palpable
influence on the record, has Flowers had a chance to meet him
yet and share his appreciation?
"No," he said quickly. "I'm kind of afraid to now."