CD Review of Day and Age by The Killers
Recommended if you like
Pet Shop Boys, U2, Duran Duran
Label
Island
The Killers: Day and Age

Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez

A
fter the massive success of their debut outing Hot Fuss, the Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers went all gaga for Bruce Springsteen. The proof was all over the album Sam’s Town, which found the Las Vegas outfit blending their synth-heavy New Romantic schooled songwriting styling with the blue-collar muscle of the Boss’ late ‘70s work. The results were mixed. Dave Keuning’s guitars were usually too prominent in the mix burying Flowers’ sun-kissed keyboard melodies and all but eliminating the infectious quality of their first album. It was almost like Depeche Mode going from Speak & Spell to "Personal Jesus" in the short span of two years. The Killers just weren’t ready for a stylistic leap that huge yet.

When "Human," the first single from Day and Age, hit radio this fall, it was clear the band were mining from the same synth-pop influences of their earlier material. The walls of dreamlike keyboards and pulsating tempos scream Pet Shop Boys circa Introspective. Here was the Killers we all fell in love with the first time around, but to say Day and Age is the band’s attempt to follow the same sonic blueprint of Hot Fuss again would be untrue. Sure, the obvious new wave leanings of their debut are all over the record but the group has also opened up their songwriting palette to a slew of new musical flavorings. Some of these influences invigorate the material while some of them overwhelm it.

One of the more adventurous songs also turns out to be one of the album’s standout numbers. The same band who wrote "Mr. Brightside" just a few years ago actually pulls off a calypso-styled track called "I Can’t Stay." The steel drums and brass recall the poppier side of Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints collection, and while it might look like a disaster waiting to happen on paper, "I Can’t Stay" is a real delight. When they get all Young Americans era Bowie on "Joy Ride," the band falls flat. Where the Thin White Duke’s voice blended R&B sexiness with glam-rock swagger, Flowers’ voice just isn’t big enough to make Mark Stoermer’s funky bass runs and Keuning’s Nile Rodgers-like guitar parts not come off as a clumsy genre exercise.

Stuart Price does a wonderful job of capturing the soaring quality of Flowers’ keyboards which, when it comes down to it, usually anchors the Killers’ most memorable moments. Known for his work with Madonna, Keane, and New Order, Price’s fingerprint is all over Day and Age. Heavily influenced by the golden days of ‘80s synth-pop, he helps the combo get back to the dance floor-approved backbeats of their debut effort. Despite the highlighting of the synthesizers and vocal hooks, the mix still carries enough booming quality to work in the gargantuan sound systems you would find in a dance club. With so much emphasis put on the record’s sonic texture, some of the songs have more going for them in style than they do in substance -- but outside a couple of missteps, the Killers have honed in on the stronger threads of their DNA and returned to being the great dance-rock band we fell for in the first place.

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