Taking it as it comes

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 thinking."

"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."

 

 

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