I have been waiting for this album for months. It’s been available on iTunes for pre-order for a couple of weeks, and honestly it drove me nuts seeing the song list but not being able to actually listen to it. The waiting’s finally over, I purchased the album this week and already I’m finding myself addicted to it, it’s playing in an endless loop all day long. If you liked Hot Fuss, then The Killers‘ second album is definitely for you. Catchy tunes, fantastic lyrics and that unmistakable original glam-new wave-rock synth style make Sam’s Town an hour filled with some of the best alt-rock around. No, sadly it’s no second Hot Fuss, for it lacks pop-oriented songs such as Mr Brightside – which certainly makes this album less accessible for a mainstream audience – and All these things I’ve done with its ingenious “I got soul but I’m not a soldier”, but I wasn’t anticipating a copy of Hot Fuss anyway, and those who did, well, just put their first album in.
The album starts of with the name giving Sam’s Town, which slowly builts up and that way leads you right into the songs to come. The Killers then however break the rules and insert a so-called Enterlude – no that’s no typo – which is not quite a minute and is more spoken than sung:
We hope you enjoy your stay
It’s good to have you with us, even if it’s only for the day
Then comes the catchy When you were young, which has been playing on the radio stations for the past weeks and made me anticipate the album even more. The rythm changes a bit with the following song Bling (Confessions of a king), which comes across as a bit slower then the previous song. My favourite song on this album is called For Reasons Unknown, a song which will turn around in your head all day long, the lyrics will probably burn themselves into your mind after the first listening and you might catch yourself singing it. Though the lyrics definitely are unsurprisingly not about a happy world, the melody’s pretty cheering up and it’s this contrast which makes it a great song. But perhaps it’s just because I find a stitch of personal experience in there.
But my heart, it don’t beat, it don’t beat the way it used to
And my eyes, they don’t see you no more
And my lips, they don’t kiss, they don’t kiss the way they used to
And my eyes don’t recognize you no more
For reasons unkown, reasons unknown
Read My Mind has a nice guitar solo, and the changes between faster and slower passages make it an interesting song, though I don’t think it’s their best one. Uncle Jonny has some nice disharmonies between Flowers’ incredible voice and the instruments, which makes this one also an interesting song to listen to.
Another outstanding song however is Bones (it is going to be the next single, for which the video was shot by the great Tim Burton himself), which begins with a very short choir and then goes on with a fantastic melody cheering you really up, as long as you don’t listen to the lyrics:
We took a back road, we’re gonna look at the stars
We took a backroad in my car down to the ocean
It’s only water and sand and in the ocean we’ll hold hands
But I don’t really like you, apologetically dressed in the best
But on a heartbeat glide
Without an answer, the thunder speaks for the sky
And on the cold, wet dirt I cry
Don’t you wanna come with me?
Don’t you wanna feel my bones on your bones?
It’s only natural
A cinematic vision ensued like the holiest dream
Is someone calling?
An angel whispers my name, but the message relayed is the same:
Wait till tomorrow, you’ll be fine
I don’t love the song The river is wild so much for its melody rather than for its incredible lyrics… There’s this line in the last stanza that just hits me every time I listen to it, maybe it’s just for the idea of splitting the word “merry-go-round” up into its actual parts, but even more I reckon that it is an ingenious metaphor.
Now the cards are everywhere face in dust
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many headlights
But there’s something pulling me
The circus and the crew
Well they’re just passing through
Making sure the merry still goes round
But it’s a long long way down
I don’t particularly like Why do I keep counting?, but they could have done worse for the last regular song and Exitlude gives the album a great closure. Then there’s (only on the iTunes version) the bonus track Where the white boys dance which is a nice add-on but sadly no outstanidng song which you might expect as the encore. The last song is a Lindbergh Palace remix of When you were young, which basically expands the song onto seven minutes, adds a bit of extra bass and a bit of trance elements, but apart from that it’s not very original. The cool thing with iTunes though is: they don’t charge you extra for these bonus tracks, meaning the album still only costs 9.99€, which is pretty cheap for 14 songs, plus the great video of When you were young and an interactive booklet (which is pretty disappointing though, as it doesn’t even feature the lyrics).
To broaden the view a bit with a more professinal view, here’s an excerpt of what allmusic.com had to say about the album:
… even if the music doesn’t really work, it’s hard not to listen to it in slack-jawed wonderment, since there’s never been a record quite like it – it’s nothing but wrong-headed dreams, it’s all pomp but no glamour, it’s clichés sung as if they were myths.
Which doesn’t sound all positive, but although I don’t agree with this statement, sometimes it’s really nice to disguise a cliché as a myth – and if they do it, they do it brilliantly.
To conclude, I have to say Sam’s Town – the name by the way is based on “Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall” in Las Vegas, the band’s hometwon – is an overall great album. The band has moved on and tried giving up a bit on the synths, although they still largely depend on them, though far less than in their previous album. Flowers’ voice has matured and Keuning’s guitar solos are just great to listen to. The only thing saddening is that there are two more songs which are only available with Best Buy (All The Pretty Faces and Daddy’s Eyes), but perhaps they’re gonna be available to a wider audience some day, too. (Such things are a reason why P2P is still so popular I guess… Oh and you certainly do not want to buy the actual CD, ’cause seriously, that’s the version with the least songs on it.)