The Killers have always come across as a band that see themselves as being more significant than they really are. And I’m not just saying this because Brandon Flowers outright said that he thinks The Killers are the best band to emerge in the past fifteen years back in 2015 – you can feel it in most of their songs. Many of them (‘Human’ is a good example) have a certain level of gravitas to them that suggest what the band have to say is incredibly unique and profound…
In reality, many of the band’s songs have nothing interesting to say. While they do have a handful of great hits under their belt (‘Mr. Brightside’, ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, ‘When You Were Young’), The Killers seem to specialise in producing songs that are incredibly middling. Not bad, just the sort that are hard to feel any strong emotion towards. This is especially true with most of the tracks on the band’s last two releases, Day & Age and Battleborn, albums that felt like they were destined for the bargain bins as soon as each of them was released.
In this regard, The Killers’ new album is a massive step up. Wonderful Wonderful is by no means an incredible album, but it does feature some of the best songs the band has put out in over ten years.
Lead single ‘The Man’ is a lot of fun, featuring Brandon Flowers at his most self-aware. The song pokes fun at his overblown persona from the Hot Fuss days, featuring plenty of great cheesy lines (‘I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man’). The instrumentation has a certain neon-swagger to it, and there are even a few well-placed champagne cork and cash register ching sound effects in the background. It’s self-aware and silly and that’s what makes it great. Wonderful Wonderful’s other main single ‘Run For Cover’ is equally strong, having a sense of energy to it that few Killers songs seem to have these days. The verses are solid but the chorus is the real highlight, where the song really explodes. It’s just a fantastic track – one of the band’s all-time bests.
The album’s title track is also good, featuring some really gorgeous instrumentation. The echoing vocals, horns and almost tribal drums give it a psychedelic feel… It doesn’t sound like any other Killers track and shows that they’re still able to surprise every once in a while. The song’s lyrics are a little bit hacky, however. Unlike on ‘The Man’, where the lyrics are intentionally silly, the goofy lyrics on ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ are delivered in a way that suggests Flowers is being deadly serious. But it’s hard to take the lyrics seriously when there’s such an abundant use of ‘thou’, ‘thine’ and ‘thee’. (‘Motherless child, does thou believe that thine afflictions have caused us to grieve?’)
Unfortunately, Wonderful Wonderful is filled with moments like this, and on most of these songs the instrumentation isn’t interesting enough to overlook their poor lyrics (like on ‘Wonderful Wonderful’). And because of this, we get a lot of middling sort of tracks like the ones that filled up Day & Age and Battleborn. The worst of these, ironically, are called ‘Rut’ and ‘Have All The Songs Been Written?’. Despite the song’s serious subject-matter, addressing Flowers’ wife Tana’s depression, ‘Rut’ is plagued with bland lyrics and an unmemorable sound (the autotuned vocals are particularly bad). ‘Have All The Songs Been Written?’ has similar problems… And I honestly can’t think of a duller subject for a song than writer’s block.
The album does manage to shine in a few other places beyond the three highlights I’ve already mentioned, but the remainder of Wonderful Wonderful is honestly a mixed bag. ‘Tyson vs Douglas’ is one of the album’s strongest lyrical moments, having a genuinely unique and interesting focus. The Brian Eno inspired ‘Some Kind Of Love’ features a gorgeous dreamy sound that makes it hard not to like, even if it features some lyrics that border on laughably bad: ‘You got the soul of a truck on a long distance haul’. ‘Out Of My Mind’, even if it namedrops a few too many artists, also gets a pass due to its great chorus hook. Finally, ‘Life To Come’ and ‘The Calling’ fall into the forgettable Killers song group along with ‘Rut’ and ‘Have All The Songs Been Written?’.
Wonderful Wonderful isn’t as great as I’d hoped it would be – despite my criticisms, I feel like The Killers have a consistently good album in them somewhere – but there are definitely enough bright spots to make it worth recommending. Its weak moments are worth sticking out for its strong ones.
Best Tracks: ‘Wonderful Wonderful’, ‘The Man’, ‘Run for Cover’