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When the Killers debuted with “Hot Fuss” in 2004, it was no secret that the band was trying to be different. An amalgamation of frontman Brandon Flowers’s flamboyant personality, his flashy wardrobe, and the influence of bands like the Cure and Duran Duran set the group apart from contemporaries who opted more toward revival than integration.
With their third studio album, “Day & Age,” the Killers once again try to push the boundaries of mainstream music by stretching beyond their already idiosyncratic repertoire of sound. But for a band that’s no stranger to mainstream success and has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide, the question is: why change?
Though “Day & Age” rests on the same bone structure of up-tempo dance beats and catchy choruses that made the Killers’ first two albums so successful, it is clear that the group is trying to expand to an even broader audience. Moving beyond their synthesizers and electric guitars, “Day & Age” introduces new sounds, like steel drums, saxophone breaks, and disco orchestration. There are even a cappella background vocals in “This Is Your Life.” Producer Stuart Price—whose résumé includes work with Madonna and Seal—attempts to mix this hodgepodge of new sound into something resembling genius. Yet Price, coveted for his work in electronica remixing and producing, is only somewhat successful in this task. Certain songs on this album, such as “Joy Ride” and “The World We Live In,” incorporate such a circus variety of sound that they become more overwhelming than enjoyable.
Lyrically, “Day & Age” departs from the Killers’ traditionally straightforward lyrics. The songs reveal a darker sensibility. Take “Spaceman,” in which Flowers is abducted by brainwashing aliens, or “This Is Your Life,” where Flowers sings: “The cops, they’ll steal your dreams and they’ll kill your prayers / Take a number where the blood just barely dried.” But this opacity comes at the cost of making sense. “Dustland Fairytale,” a badlands ballad about white trash, love, and God knows what else, features lyrics like: “Saw Cinderella in a party dress / But she was looking for a nightgown. / I saw the devil wrapping up his hands / He’s getting ready for a showdown.”
Though “Day & Age” seems an attempt to show that the Killers are still unique, the album is at its best when it resembles the band’s older work. The first three tracks are the most enjoyable—“Spaceman” being the best—building on the Killers’ tradition of making upbeat dance tunes and energetic hooks while adding a little flavor to them. Toward the middle of the album, the Killers get a little too experimental, creating a train of hyper-mixed tracks and nonsensical lyrics. Because each of these songs lacks a strong beat to hold on to, they have the counterintuitive effect of bleeding together into one incoherent, continuous mess.
Unlike with the Killer’s previous album, “Sam’s Town,” Flowers did not make the mistake of calling “Day & Age” “one of the best albums of the past 20 years,” but the record, despite its missteps, is quite good.
The Killers have tried to mark out a departure in this album, but what they need to realize is that listeners love them for what they already are. Their music is an adrenaline rush; like the band itself, it creates the aura of a raunchy, fun-filled night in Las Vegas. I can already envision techno remixes of these songs taking over dance floors everywhere. “Day & Age” might be soon forgotten in the wake of the next wave of catchy pop songs, but for now, I’ll be dancing to it.
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