October 26, 2006


Pomp and Significance, Tempered by a Twerpy Side (JON PARELES, 10/26/06, NY Times)

After graduation, life can get complicated. When the Killers performed on Tuesday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, they were a band caught between two personas that might be described as high-school and sophomoric: self-mocking versus earnest, self-obsessed versus lofty. Brandon Flowers, the Killers’ lead singer, wore a silvery suit that proclaimed him a showman and performed under a sign proclaiming the title of the band’s new album, “Sam’s Town,” surrounded by the little triangular flags seen at the opening of used-car dealerships. But he was making a show of sincerity.

The Killers’ 2004 debut album, “Hot Fuss,” sold three million copies by plunging into the torments of high-school romance, particularly the way it can feel devastating and absurd at the same time. Like high schoolers, the Killers — Mr. Flowers is now 25 — tried on others’ styles. Although the band is from Las Vegas, it was drawn to the shameless artifice of British glam, new wave and the grander Britpop that followed it; with borrowed sounds, the Killers tapped into the gawky self-consciousness, the mixed yearning and irony, of adolescents grappling with grand passions.

“Sam’s Town” (Island), strives to address a much wider world — a hometown, family memories, even the nature of America. It cranks up guitars instead of synthesizers and sets aside any second thoughts. Along with the Cure and David Bowie, now the Killers’ models are U2, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and, for pop underpinnings, the Cars. The lyrics strive for significance and mostly succumb to clichés: “Higher and higher, we’re gonna take it/Down to the wire, we’re gonna make it,” Mr. Flowers sang in “Bling (Confession of a King).” With his voice rising to try and sound heroic, he was like Bono recast as a twerp.

But his twerpy side is the promising one. With a sound that hints at doubts and insecurities — the sound that the new songs suppress — Mr. Flowers can temper the music’s pomp, lending the songs some depth.

Rock has no depth--it is just adolescent self-obsession. Doesn't mean it's not worth listening to if it sounds good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2006 8:43 AM

Certainly rock is often nothing more than adolescent self-obsession, but, IMHO, Joe Walsh, Oingo Boingo, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd and Barenaked Ladies (one of whose songs hilariously skewers modern journalism), etc at least occasionally strive for something else.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 26, 2006 11:14 AM

Exactly right - the Pringles and Twinkies of music. Good but not good for you. Listen in moderation as part of a complete diet of classical, American songbook, and jazz.

Posted by: Rick T at October 26, 2006 1:08 PM

Modern jazz is the waterboarding of music.

Posted by: Gary at October 26, 2006 9:58 PM