On their latest album Wonderful Wonderful, The Killers are found at the lighthearted crossroads of heartland rock and synth-pop, right where they were five years ago with their 2012 LP Battle Born. They have grown up, and while their music is as unserious as ever, it seems they’re in on the joke now.
“The Man,” a reheated Daft Punk leftover and the first single from the album, swaggers along punctuated by champagne bottle pops and a literal “Cha-Ching” winking at the listener. It is harmless disco-rock poking fun at machismo not generally associated with The Killers. As frontman Brandon Flowers admits later on the album, he has learned to “drop-kick the shame,” embracing the superficiality the band built their name on.
Though they are now working with a little more self-awareness, time has not matured The Killers as a whole. “Tyson vs. Douglas” is inspired by the boxer Mike Tyson losing a match he was heavily favored to win. Flowers draws a line between his idolization of Tyson and his own children looking up to him. While lightly dealing with a big theme like invincibility, the song seems half-baked, completely side-stepping the problematic protagonist. This lyrical missed opportunity feels very early 2000’s.
Similarly dated are “Rut,” “Life to Come,” and “Run for Cover,” a mid-album sprint of signature Killers tracks. Convenient rhymes, kicky drums and wailing guitar cruise along to Flowers’ charismatic crooning. “Some Kind of Love” is a twinkly slow jam made of nonsensical metaphors and standalone romance on an album of mostly bangers. Few tracks are as catchy as “The Man,” but none feel dismissible.
With bands like The National and The War on Drugs releasing albums that pair technical mastery with deep, ponderous lyrics, The Killers can come off as shallow and even corny. But there is plenty of room for their arena-rock posturing in a popular music scene starved for live drummers and guitar solos.
Wonderful Wonderful is an album of grandiose production, but lacks the braininess of its contemporaries. Fortunately for The Killers, this self-recognized simplicity helps them land big, bright songs without weighing them down by trying too hard. The album is uncrowded, tight and joyous, with Flowers’ professional guru Bono’s fingerprints all over it.
While The Killers may never recapture the magic of their 2004 breakout debut Hot Fuss, Wonderful Wonderful is a reliably entertaining album offering several good songs harking back to an easier time when music could be purely entertainment.
Notable Tracks: “The Man” | “Run For Cover” | “Rut”