Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Killers, Day And Age

Review by Mark Reed

Album three for the great, feted new big hopes of a dying industry, The Killers manage to join the usual pre-Christmas rush with a suicidal aplomb (going up against Coldplay and Guns N'Roses in the same week is brave).

The age of the album is over. These days kids all want an unlimited “As Much Music As You Can Eat” (subject to a preset bandwidth cap) deal from their mobile phone provider to be able to be just like everyone else and play stupid booming music from tinny phones so it sounds like you're listening to an iPod that's been eaten by a whale through a stethoscope placed against it's gigantic blubber chest in the ocean. The days when people would buy, and enjoy, a whole 45 minutes in one go are gone : we're too busy listening to 30 second introductions, skipping to the next hit singles, and stealing 6,000 songs a second from the Internet. People don't actually BUY music anymore, let alone actually listen to it.

Which is odd, maybe everyone on the trains going to and from work just buy white headphones they stuff into their pockets and listen to nothing at all but the dull thud of babbling commuter tedium and flapping mouth idiots talking about cycling / immigrants / the ecology / house prices / Princess Diana / the rule of the lizards on the way to work in the morning. Why would you listen to brilliant music, and be transported to another world far away from this, when you could listen to idiots babbling on about the rules of cycling at 7.13am?

Of course, the socio-economic / political context of the environment a record is released in is of vital important. Without the world around it, Never Mind The Bollocks would've been meaningless. Art exists in the world in which it is created, and without it, it is abstract. Some music is timeless, and thus, of relevance at all times, not tied to the moment of creation but the immortal human condition.

Oh yes, The Killers. And with the incongrous line “Are we human, or are we dancer?”, would sound like nonsense to most people. But tied to the knowledge that it was inspired by Hunter S Thompson's assertion that mankind was becoming a species of dancers... it fits.

And whilst Day And Age does not match the cohesion, or vision, of Sam's Town - which drew an effective picture of an America last sketched by Springsteen – this album is a fine selection of songs. In the old days, an album would be a work of a set of songs that worked to both compliment, and complicate each other: the narrative progression of a record would be crucial, and songs would be placed together for maximum effectiveness and to ensure some form of musical, lyrical, and thematic journey. To this end, then Day And Age manages to be a successful album in the tradition of albums of yore. The opening Losing Touch, Human, and Spaceman are a interesting pyramid of songs that build on the foundations of the previous. It is only Joy Ride - which sounds like a Wham! song – that starts to undermine this and the later I Can't Stay that indulges in some dated kettle drum effects, that undo the work. Thankfully, A Dustland Fairytale, and the Talking Heads style This Is Your Life rebuild this to create something more than distinctive, with epic sweeps, a lyrical vision that matches a cinematic ambition, and musical drama that ensure you are never far from something thrilling happening.

Comparisons have been drawn to Depeche Mode and New Order, which are unfair : The Killers are something else, something far more organic, more gutteral: not exactly more human, but more hands-on. There are moments, flourishes and instants where it is clear that The Killers are indebted in many ways to 1986, but that's not to say that these are obvious: like any great band these influences are moulded into a unique combination of everything around them – much like any song is a collection, a compilation of the notes within it, and the art comes from the finished product and not the ingredients.

Day And Age is a powerful record that will soundtrack a million commutes and car journeys, make the washing up slightly less tedious, create joy on Sunday Nights dancing at home when nobody is looking, and comfort the sad on Wednesday evenings coming home from the city. In short, The Killers have delivered another fine record, and taken another step on an interesting journey you should be part of.

For more reviews by the same author check out The Final Word.

2 comments:

Planet Me said...

cor baby, thats really me!

Anita said...

Agreed, a return to top form for the Killers. Sam's Town was unconvincing.