Let's give the band's unsung bangers some time in the sun
If you’ve ever been for a night out where they didn’t play ‘Mr. Brightside’ at least twice, you’re doing fun wrong. But what about The Killers’ less notorious songs? Here’s our pick of the Las Vegas band’s most under-appreciated work, shining a light on the tracks that are worth way more than the time you’re giving them.
1. ‘On Top’ (2004)
‘Hot Fuss’ was packed with huge hits as ‘Mr. Brightside’, ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ and ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that a few brilliant album tracks fly under the radar. But when was the last time you heard a squelchy keyboard line and thought, “Goddamn, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard?” It was when you heard on top, released more than decade ago.
Key lyric: “It’s like a cigarette in the mouth / Or a handshake in the doorway.”
2. ‘Sam’s Town’ (2006)
The opening and title track to the band’s second album sets the tone for a rousing record, and proves that ‘Hot Fuss’ was no fluke. It’s quintessential Killers, with witty verses, synths galore and Brandon Flowers’ cracked croon, all of which gives way to a truly epic chorus.
Key lyric: “Nobody ever had a dream ’round here / But I don’t really mind that it’s starting to get to me.”
3. ‘The Ballad of Michael Valentine’ (2003)
This track just shows the depth of ability The Killers had when writing ‘Hot Fuss’. ‘The Ballad of Michael Valentine’ comes from the band’s 2007 release ‘Sawdust’, a compilation of B-sides, rarities and covers. It’s like: this is what they left off the albums!?
Key lyric: “I broke to the right and I caught your eye / Shut your mouth and wave goodbye.”
4. ‘The World We Live In’ (2008)
The release of ‘Day & Age’ brought a mixed response from fans, many of whom felt the band had broken from their roots to take a lighter, less guitar-based approach. But ‘The World We Live In’ best captures their new ideas, whilst retaining more of the style that made them who they are, combining a soaring chorus and their Vegas razzle-dazzle with the new unashamedly pop sound.
Key lyric: “Bless your body, bless your soul / Reel me in and cut my throat.”
5. ‘¡Happy Birthday Guadalupe!’ (2006)
A Christmas single from The Killers has become as traditional as Brussels sprouts and family fighting. With the help of Mariachi El Bronx, Brandon Flowers and Co. created a brilliant love story about a one-night stand on Christmas eve. Like, that’s gonna be an awkward walk of shame home through the snow, isn’t it?
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Key lyric: “Made my excuses and a beeline for the bedroom door / She was begging and a-pleading screaming, ‘Por favor mi cumpleanos, stay with me, baby it’s cold outside’.”
6. ‘This River Is Wild’ (2006)
This underrated song ensured that the epic feel of ‘Sam’s Town’ lasted to the very end of the album. The breathless verses from Flowers build to an epic chorus, encapsulating everything that’s great about the band. Boasting squealing synths, wiry guitar and brilliantly melodramatic lyrics, it’s not exactly a subtle listen, but who comes to The Killers for subtlety?
Key lyric: “Should I just get along with myself / I never did get along with everybody else.”
7. ‘Midnight Show’ (2004)
Like ‘On Top’, this one flew under the ‘Hot Fuss’ radar. Dave Keunig’s jangly guitar is the stuff that classic indie-pop is made of, while the last third of the track spirals into a demented kaleidoscope of noise, before it sputters out into a haunting carnival-esque outro; it’s like listening to a fairground die very, very slowly.
Key lyric: ‘I took my baby’s breath beneath the chandelier of stars and atmosphere / And watched her disappear’.
8. ‘Bling (Confession of a King)’ (2006)
As soon as Brandon belts out the chorus a cappella at the start, you know this ‘Sam’s Town’ cut is going to be a banger. Ronnie Vannucci Jr.’s marching drumbeat gives the chorus that extra boost when it finally hits. Boy howdy, do though, The Killers make you wait for this one. But as a wise person once said: good things come to those who wait for Brandon Flower to hit his stride.
Key lyric: ‘When I offer you survival, you say it’s hard enough to live.’
9. ‘All The Pretty Faces’ (2006)
Another from ‘Sawdust’, that collection of B-sides and rarities, ‘All The Pretty Faces’ showcases a heavier side to The Killers. The guitar hook wouldn’t be out of place in a lot of hard-rock and metal songs, and apart from an appearance on Guitar Hero 5, the song hasn’t had the attention it deserves. It’s also lyrically dark, with Flowers sneering, “I don’t feel like touchin’ her no more… I would do anything just to your man.” What an absolute bad bastard he is here.
Key lyric: “You’re not going anywhere without me / These trials don’t prepare the air of love.”
10. ‘Joseph, Better You Than Me’ (2008)
More of The Killers’ Christmas classics here. This time they enlist the help of Elton John and Neil Tennant from Pet Shop Boys to create a nativity-themed hit. With a wide range of vocals, they joke about how Joseph is struggling to deal with fame in the light of Mary’s pregnancy. Put it this way: the red tops ain’t buying that ‘immaculate conception’ story.
Key lyric: ‘Well your eyes just haven’t been the same, Joseph / Are you bad at dealing with the fame, Joseph’.
11. ‘I Can’t Stay’ (2008)
Another track on the exploratory ‘Day & Age’, ‘I Can’t Stay’ is a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a tropical island, with its steel drums and jaunty rhythms, though the lyrics are as emotive as ever from Brandon. Just because you’ve got a piña colada in your hand, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a heavy heart, yeah?
Key lyric: “My forgiver found the sun and there are twisted days that I take comfort ‘cause I’m not the only one.”
Words: Louie Chandler