Alternative pop-rock giants The Killers released their fifth album, “Wonderful Wonderful,” on Sept. 22 and gave the world a great example of an established band that’s still growing. Its first album in five years, “Wonderful Wonderful” is the intentional product of the band questioning its role in the music industry and the world going forward.
This new release comes 13 years after The Killers’ first album, “Hot Fuss,” and they have managed to do the almost impossible. This band created on angst has been able to evolve with the times and its fan base while still maintaining its own identity and, in the process, attracting new listeners with each album release.
Somehow, all of that change feels natural. As a band, The Killers never suddenly change without justification. When they morph, it’s because they are actually changing, not because their manager started to pick out their clothes. Not to jinx anything, but The Killers are still pretty relevant at a time when most of the 2000s teenage angst bands have come and gone.
There’s no doubt that The Killers have their own sound, but this album is much more than a walk down memory lane. It’s refreshing that such an established group is still interested in growing, as opposed to resting on its laurels and playing shows from an existent catalog.
There’s nothing new in terms of what this album is doing, but the important thing is that each new Killers album always adds something new to their pot of goodies. Whether you like it or not, change is in their DNA. For this album, they’ve gone back to the future and created a modern album with heavy ’80s synth electronic feels. The band uses electronic distortion to varying degrees of success throughout the album’s songs.
Some of the tracks might feel more at home in the 1980s, especially “The Man,” an incredible glam rock jam. “The Man” makes use of some incredible harmonizing and auto-tune. It’s fun to listen to because lead singer Brandon Flowers so dramatically mixes up his vocals. There can’t be any doubt that Flowers has a killer voice, so when he adds in a heavy dose of distortion, you know he’s just fooling around. He’s not trying to hide any flaws, because he may not have any at all. As a band, The Killers have never done a song that sounds quite like this, and their experimentation gives a new gift to their listeners. You could hear “The Man” at any Oxford bar as well as on your dad’s vinyl player. How’s that for versatility?
Their electronic experimentation does have some duds. “Rut” and “Life to Come” both commit too hard to the techno influence and end up sounding a little too much like Phil Collins songs. Not that there is anything wrong with the one and only Collins, but the band has sewn an electronic backbeat to these songs and then treated them like any other Killers production. Both “Rut” and “Life to Come” resemble an audial Frankenstein. There are many parts and influences, but no cohesion.
The most interesting songs are the ones that start a conversation. “Some Kind of Love” sounds a lot like Coldplay circa the “Yellow” days. Flowers wrote the song for his wife, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. This emotional and heartfelt love song is a huge break from most Killers tracks, and with it, the band has created a true masterpiece.
The Killers don’t hide from personal experience in “Have All the Songs Been Written,” a very honest question from a band whose members are all approaching 40. The guitar is simplistically beautiful with continuous picking in the background of the song. This song could have easily become too aggressive, but while Flowers’ vocals intensify, neither he nor the instrumentation go all the way in terms of volume. The guitar becomes hypnotic toward the end of the song. The easy gimmicks are all resisted, and for 4 minutes and 10 seconds, the listener just hears beauty.
The Killers haven’t produced a perfect album, but they have brought something new without compromising who they are as a band. This album definitely calls for a second listen. Some of the best songs might not even stick out until the third or fourth time around. Let your favorites grow on you and draw you in. “Wonderful Wonderful” is a slow burn, not a forest fire, but it still brings some serious heat. The Killers are a band that would probably make music even if no one listened, but you should definitely listen.