Track by Track guide to Sam's Town
NME August 19,2006
It's three months
late because frontman Brandon Flowers didn't have the lyrics
done,but with extra sessions in London and a little help from their
new favourite influence Bruce Springsteen,The Killers second album
is finally finished.Named after a casino that Flowers used to live
opposite,here's our first listen to Sam's Town
The opener feels like a prologue for the album. Over swirling
strings they reveal the hometown blues that fuel this LP’s restless
spirit. “Nobody had a dream round here and I don’t really mind/
and it’s starting to get to me”, belts out Flowers, before the
brakes are applied and Sam’s Town twists into a carnival waltz- the
circus has arrived.
Now the scene has been set, we get a brief curtain raiser.
Accompanying himself on piano, Flowers delivers a knowingly cheesy
hotel welcome: “We hope you enjoy your stay/ it’s good to have
you with us even if it’s just for the day/Outside the sun is
shining/ it feels like heaven isn’t far away”.
Then we’re into the thick of it. The comeback single bursts into
life, racing down the neon lit drag and out into the dusty desert
night. Powered by its pulsating bass, the song dives into the
American skyline, with tales of highways, hurricanes, mountains and
a distraught heroine praying for forgiveness.
Bling (Confessions of a King):
It opens with operatic vocals and bursts of military snare drum,
contrasting with the previous track’s cool sophistication. This song
lays itself bare in the burning, midday sun, as Flowers takes us on
a trek through a sandy wilderness. “Higher and higher/we’re going
to take it down to the wire/we’re going to make it", he
promises, as the track concludes its vision of Americana with an
honest, acoustic guitar.
For Reasons Unknown:
Twitching into life with buzzing guitars, this is a driving song,
built for long roads and imposing landscapes. Musically, it’s the
closest thing to Hot Fuss, boasting The Killers’ trademark pop
charm. “My heart it doesn’t beat the way it used to, my eyes
don’t see you no more”, runs the chorus, before Flowers adds
with extra vigour, “Any my lips, my lips don’t kiss the way they
used to and my eyes don’t recognise you no more/for reasons unknown”.
Read My Mind:
Opening with hymn like keyboards, this finds The Killers at their
most soulful. “I don’t mind, you don’t mind/cause I don’t shine,
you don’t shine/before you go can you read my mind?” sings
Flowers with raw emotion, as Read My Mind’s reflective feel finds
The Killers at their most engaging.
Starting with a lone, squalling guitar which provides the song’s
spiky backbone, it’s clear The Killers were taking stadium rock
notes when they supported U2 last year. However, replacing the
hanger sized pomposity is humour. “When everyone else refrained/
my uncle Jonny did cocaine” deadpans Flowers, “he’s convinced
himself within his brain/that it helps him take away the pain”.
You can imagine him grinning.
What The Killers do best: a twisted, creepy love song wrapped up in
a warm pop heart. Bones feels like a successor to Mr. Brightside
with its racing synths and tales of backseat car rides, beach
parties and rejected advances. “Don’t you want to come with me,
don’t you want to feel my bones/ I want your bones/it’s only natural”
declares Flowers, revealing a menace beneath the shiny surface.
Pounding with heartbeat drums, My List is the most Springsteen
indebted track here. “Your heart is not able, let me show you how
much I care”, sings Flowers while Keuning’s guitars take us into
‘Born to Run’ territory.
This River is Wild:
Opening like a spaghetti western- only played on sci-fi keyboards-
we’re quickly burning across the desert highway again, revisiting
the opener’s themes. “This town was meant for passing through”
Why Do I Keep Counting?
After Attid, no Killers album is complete without the anthem and
Sam’s Town’s closer obliges. Opening with a whisper, Ronnie
Vannucci’s relentless drumming helps it grow into a monster. “If
I only knew the answer/and if our days are numbered/why do I keep
counting?” wonders Flowers before it smashes to a close with a
Exitlude:We’re left with a merry outro. Reprising Enterlude’s
lyrics a chorus of voices cheerily combine over a track curiously
reminiscent of the Cheers TV theme tune.
Brandon's track by
track guide to Sam's Town
NME October 4,2006
An excited Brandon Flowers talks NME through The Killers' new LP
Kasabian have done it. Razorlight have done it. Now it's The Killers
turn to have a crack at the 'difficult second album' with the
release of Sam's Town this week. So were the Las Vegas outfit
nervous about being the last of the class of 2004 to put out a
follow up LP? Not for a second. "We had a real confidence because of
the success of Hot Fuss, so we thought we'd take advantage of it. We
didn't want to make a shy album," declares Brandon Flowers of the LP
they recorded in Las Vegas and London this year. "We wanted to keep
going and keep building on this". Here, the singer explains to NME
just how he managed it:
We wanted to come back unashamedly and this was the perfect way of
sounding confident and strong. Everybody puts their tails between
their legs when they make their second album, but we wanted to come
out all guns blazing and that's what Sam's Town sounds like. It's
named after a casino I used to live across the street from. The way
The Beatles had landmarks like Abbey Road and Penny Lane; I wanted
to do that for Las Vegas. We're proud of where we're from and it
marks a period of our lives.
I think we invented that, the Enterlude and the Exitlude! (laughs)
We were recording in a hotel casino and I was messing around on a
piano. Next to me was a room key-card that said 'we hope you enjoy
your stay' on it, and it all just took off from there. The melody
came from a dream. I have musical dreams, but I rarely remember
them. This is the only time I've been able to remember one. It
sounds ridiculous but it was Kurt Cobain on a ship, in the clouds!
He was singing this melody and I remember thinking he sounded like
Bob Dylan, so that made it even weirder!
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG
We knew right away this would be a single. We had the record label
breathing down our necks. They were worried that we wouldn't write
another Somebody Told Me - and we didn't want to, so they were
really worried. One day we were just messing around and this chord
progression came about and I had the Jesus line, so it felt alright.
I remember driving home after we made a rough recording and I slept
a little easier ever since that night. The song's about the idea
that saviours can come in different forms, that's a lot of it.
This was kicking around for a long time and then at the last minute
we added some acoustic guitars and it really made it feel like the
desert, which all ties right into the album. It's like Talking Heads
and Johnny Cash. I guess it's like a medal for my father. It's
glorifying the person who does a great job raising his kids, just
going to work everyday. A lot of people in bands write about the
working stiffs. I wanted to make something that was the opposite,
because that's what my family is and I'm proud of it. My dad is 64
years old, he raised 6 kids and now he's got 20 grandkids and I
guess that's what the ending of the song is about. When you see him
playing with his grandkids he's a happy man.
It's a very old song. We wrote it on tour and recorded it on Louis
XIV's bus. We had a finished version that night and the one on the
album is very similar. We wrote a lot during soundchecks on the
road, hashing out songs. I feel this is a good bridge to Hot Fuss.
READ MY MIND
It's the best song we've ever written! It has a hymn like
spirituality and there's a story - it's what you strive for in a
song. It used to be called Little Angela and it was totally
different. It had a rock beat and my lyrics told a small love story.
Flood and Alan came in and made a stab at my lyrics and had Ronnie
play a disco beat. I started singing this different story and within
a few hours it was a different song.
Uncle Jonny is my mother's brother. He's the black sheep of the
family. Every couple of years something would happen. He's done
everything from shoot himself to drug addictions yet somehow he's
ended up alright. He's really a nice guy. He's heard the song and
he's happy to be immortalised because he's a rocker, he's always got
a Zeppelin shirt on. Jonny deserves the song's riff (laughs).
You don't usually use the word riff with us, but this is one of the
greatest riffs of all time. I guess it's a little bit inspired by
being on the road with U2. We learnt a lot from watching them.
This is the oldest song on the album at 2 years old and I was really
getting tired of it. We hadn't played it for anybody and it didn't
feel good enough, then Mark had an idea. He grew up playing the
trumpet, so we brought in real brass and it brought the song to
life. It just exploded! It's one of my favourites now. It's a
romance, it's sweet but it's twisted in some ways.
It's our attempt at a ballad. It's a unique song, with the way it
goes at the middle 'don't give the ghost up'. It's for my wife. I
wanted people to believe it like I believe when I hear something I
love. I want that on every song, but this one has a moment that you
never know if it's going to happen again - we just got lucky. This
is me. We didn't have many vocal tracks so this is the closest to
what I sound like in the shower (laughs).
THIS RIVER IS WILD
It's a strange one. Some people already hate it; some people like
it, but the ones who love it are diehard. I love it! If ever there's
been a musical journey this is it. When I listen to it I don't want
it to end. Each chorus is different, that's untypical of us, so it's
our shot at doing something different. This is also the most literal
song here. I was born in Las Vegas but I grew up in a small town in
Utah called Nephi, and the whole idea of escaping it and the
excitement of that prospect is all captured on this.
WHY DO I KEEP COUNTING?
It was very difficult to get the band to sound the way we do on
this, but it was time well spent because it became a real explosion.
It's a bit ELO a bit Bowie and it's the climax of the album - it
ends with the gong. Basically it's a bargain with God. I have a big
problem with flying and the first thing I do if there's something
wrong is I pray. Just bargaining, "I'll be good if you let me live!"
I didn't want to melancholic, and everybody seems to be reminiscing
about last month these days as opposed to good times, so I think the
beauty of the Exitlude is there's sadness to it but it's not over.
You want to go back to Sam's Town and I do too. It reminds you of
the Cheers theme tune? (laughs) I grew up on Cheers! I was
with Woody Harrelson the other night and I told him what an effect
Cheers had on my life! (laughs) I felt so ridiculous!
We're not artists, there's only a couple in the world and Anton
Corbijn is one of them. We just put our faith in what he wanted to
do. He listened to the album, had ideas and just ran with it. We
were out there during the shooting and he took the pictures of us on
the inside of the album that day too. I wasn't sold on it until we
put The Killers logo on there and then there was no doubt about it.
What does it all mean? The bighorn sheep is the Nevada State animal,
that's all I'll give you!