So, The Killers. “Mr. Brightside” was a massive hit single, and their first album Hot Fuss is in my top five for the entire Aughts. I haven’t loved their follow-up records nearly as much, but they’ve still delivered spectacular songs like “When We Were Young,” “Human,” and “Spaceman.” At their best, they’re a hard-driving rock band that balances bombast with soaring sensitivity.
“Soaring sensitivity?” I mean their rock music feels driven by the urgency of feelings instead of the swagger of macho pride. The lyrics are often about emotional conflict—“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”—and frontman Brandon Flowers belts massive notes that always seem choked with tears. His voice has this mournful quality that makes everything seem bittersweet.
And behind these lyrics and vocals, the band’s music has wild abandon. Melodies swell up in killer guitar riffs and crash all around you in washes of drums and electronic keyboards, and there’s almost always some crescendo that suggests the band will be racing to the top of a mountain, dropping to their knees, and yelling at the sky. Because, you know… they are feeling it. They are the only band I can think of that’s following in the lighters-up, arena anthem, Rock of Ages footsteps of Journey and Bruce Springsteen.
That passion is right up front in “Runaways,” the first single from their upcoming album Battle Born. (The video just dropped today, and you can see it here.)
For me, this is not only the best Killers song since their first album… it’s also my favorite rock song of 2012.
The song follows the story of a young dude and a young gal falling in love. They’re so in love that after they get engaged, the dude swears on the head of their unborn child—oops! is she knocked up?—that he’ll take care of them forever. Then trouble strikes and their marriage starts failing. But then, if I’m understanding the lyrics correctly, they both run away from their lives and try to start over on the road. It’s a story-song that Bon Jovi or Bryan Adams would have killed in 1987.
And you know what? Good. I’m glad there’s one song on the radio right now that has this massive, chill-inducing sound. Because Journey and Springsteen and 80s-era Bon Jovi are awesome, and while I like The Black Keys as much as the next guy, their cooler-than-you blues-rock doesn’t get my heart pumping. It doesn’t make me feel like anything is possible if I’ve got a guitar and a dream and maybe a tank full of gas.
And it’s interesting because Brandon Flowers is, like, a Super Mormon, which makes me worry that as a gay man, I’m at odds with his beliefs. But then again, he’s also given interviews about loving his gay fans, so… it’s cool? And there’s no denying that the Killers have a gay following. (A quick internet search tells you that many gay people connect with the band’s big sounds, electro touches, and sparkly fashions.)
But whatever. The point is… this new song rules. We can sort out the politics after we’ve feeling these feelings and sung along.
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” is his favorite album track on Hot Fuss.