The Killers are known for their songs, “Mr. Brightside,” “Somebody Told Me” and “When You Were Young,” all of which have lyrical storytelling, catchy rock choruses and an air for the dramatic.
“Wonderful Wonderful,” the American band’s fifth studio album released Sept. 22, feels like the band has isolated who they are and cranked the dial until it’s broken. It’s a self-aware assertion of who they are, even if it’s not as confident or unbothered as we previously assumed.
The opening track, “Wonderful Wonderful,” is a tornado of sound, like a marching band gone rogue, a circus train off the tracks. It’s almost drama for drama’s sake and it sets the stage for the rest of the album.
Then comes “The Man,” a Foxy Shazam and Queen-inspired single that I really adore. It’s a confident 80s rock anthem with attitude, with singer Brandon Flowers announcing he’s a “household name.”
In “Rut,” I can’t get over how much his voice sounds like Freddie Mercury’s, a rocker vibrato over electronic beats. It at first felt to me like a “nice change” but upon listening to the album in its entirety a few times, this is just a snapshot of the rest of the album and a tease of the band’s unused talent to make dramatic, over-the-top rock songs.
The album also does really interesting things with sampled audio. “Tyson vs. Douglas” has audio of the announcing of the fight, specifically when Tyson was knocked out.
It sounds like an upbeat beginning soundtrack for a boxing movie, but the lyrics paint the tale of understanding loss that you never saw coming: “You can change the channel, take the phone off the hook/ Avoid the headlines, but you’ll never grow up, baby, if you don’t look.”
Then “The Calling” begins with a reading from the bible, Matthew 9:10-12. The sample just made me want to pick apart everything in the song for a meaning, and I really respect artists that can craft a song that means something but makes someone decide that meaning for themselves. Besides that, it has a killer beat and sleazy blues guitar riffs, making it my second favorite track of the album.
“Some Kind of Love” and “Have All the Songs Been Written?” are slow, atmospheric and meditative. It slows the pace and draws you into the band’s vulnerability, things I never really expected (or honestly, truly wanted) out of this album. It feels like how they describe in “Tyson vs. Douglas” when your favorite goes down when Flowers laments “Have all these years been worth it/ Or am I the great regret?” Regardless of how sad it is, these songs are a testament that the band is capable of more than reality-shrugging anthems.
“Wonderful Wonderful” has incredible dexterity and layers that I still haven’t quite peeled away. However, there are no songs, besides “The Man,” with the capability of becoming hits.
“The Man” as a single delivered such high excitement on the second track and the rest of the album never quite gets up that far. The Killers might have isolated what they are, and I think they truly hit the mark with “The Man” and “The Calling.” The rest of the songs were really close to being phenomenal, which is much better than a lot of other bands in their genre, but the promise makes it really frustrating.
I think the album is one of the most creative works I have heard this year. It has an air of a movie soundtrack, but the drama and romp turned into a tragedy and couldn’t bring itself to keep telling us that they’re confident and everything’s fantastic.
Hopefully this is just a step in the journey for The Killers, and not the end.
Album: “Wonderful Wonderful”
Artist: The Killers
Release: Sept. 22
Rating: 3.5/5 stars