New York post

October 1, 2006 -- THE Killers' Brandon Flowers insists he understands the concept of the sophomore jinx - it just doesn't apply to him.

In the face of early critical spankings of the Las Vegas band's second album "Sam's Town," Flowers not only defends the new Springsteen-influenced sound and the songs, but defiantly says this second disc is better than the hits-loaded debut "Hot Fuss," which sold 5 million copies worldwide.

Like-minded bands such as Franz Ferdinand and the Strokes experienced the same critical bash of their sophomore albums, but Flowers doesn't see the similarity.

"Their second records weren't as good as their first records. Our record is, and that's the difference," he swaggers. "No matter what anybody writes. You listen to an album one time and you write a piece of s--- review ... I've lived with the album, and I know how good it is, and it's gonna prevail. There's no doubt in my mind. It's not a cocky thing, I just know how good these songs are. It will do better than 'Hot Fuss.'"

While the album has some flashes of the group's pop past, you know you're in for something completely different during the somewhat cheesy "Enterlude" - as Flowers sings "We hope you enjoy your stay" against a little piano. Not only are the Killers introducing a concept album, the foursome is selling more epic songs than the infectious gems of "Hot Fuss."

The biggest blow came last week, when the disc only received two out of five stars from Rolling Stone, pulverizing the band by saying "When You Were Young" is the single because "it's the closest thing to a good song on the album," and the band "leaves no pompous arena cliche untweaked in their quest to rewrite 'Born to Run.'"

But if music buyers are like the fans at a recent secret show at Webster Hall, the Killers may have nothing to worry about.

The mixed date-night crowd scream-sang to all the new songs, and during the 2004 hit "Somebody Told Me," the female bartenders climbed up onto the bar Hogs and Heifers-style and shook their booties.

The spring break-like excitement continued when the theatrical Flowers, who has traded his signature eyeliner for a moustache and bolo tie, kicked in with the new hit single. "That show was one of one of our standout New York moments," he says. "It was a lot better for a New York crowd. They [usually] don't show much enthusiasm."

So why did the band change direction, swapping Morrissey for Springsteen? Flowers says he couldn't help it - the Boss opened his eyes and ears.

"I fell in love - just like you do with music," he says. "I didn't know about 21-year-old Bruce Springsteen. I thought I was finished with loving something like this. I grew up being a fanatic about Morrissey, Bowie and New Order, but that faded over the years.

"I don't feel like we drifted too far with the sound," he adds. "I think we're better and stronger, and I think this album is better and stronger. People are constantly changing as you get older. We changed the way we look a little bit, but we didn't think it would cause such an uproar. I'm a big fan of David Bowie and The Beatles, and they were able to change."

"Sam's Town" is named after an unremarkable hotel/casino in Las Vegas, where, despite rumors to the contrary, the band never played.

"We didn't mean for [the title] to have any specific connection, but I do like it that places us somewhere and in some time like 'Abbey Road' does for The Beatles or 'Vauxhall' for Morrissey," says Flowers.

Despite the big success of the first album, back in Vegas the 25-year-old, who got married last year, doesn't live in a mansion - just a house, not far from his childhood home. "I live like a normal person," he says.

Although Flowers dismisses his critics, he can't help but address their issues. "To say I grew facial hair so people will take me more seriously is just ridiculous," he says. "I've never been able to grow it before, and I can now and I like it."

And no matter what the outcome, he feels the Killers deserve points for trying.

Acknowledging that the Strokes' debut disc inspired "Hot Fuss," Flowers goes on to question their follow-up. "The Strokes did something too similar to the first album, and we didn't want to fall into that, so we changed and now we're getting butchered for changing."

Critics, he says, "wrote bad things about [our] first album, and it sold 5 million records. We make a little more realistic record, and they say we're being something that we're not. We can't do anything right for the critics. "