Sometimes, when compiling the Sophie’s Choice of blogs that is Rank The Albums, it really just comes down to such petty points as production, artwork or – oh yes - grammar. When you’re rating the output of a band that delivers pinpoint-perfect arena pop as reliably as Nando’s delivers deliciously spiced chicken delights (black card in the post, right?), it’s all in the details. So, The Killers, let’s study the minutiae and work out which albums were human, and which were chancer…
Given a spruce up and disco sparkle by Madonna producer Stuart Price, ‘Day & Age’ came out fighting with the electro rock one-two of ‘Human’ and ‘Spaceman’ and the epic desert storm of ‘Dustland Fairytale’. And by mortal standards the rest of the album sizzled too, but for The Killers its latter half showed mild signs of song-writing fatigue - understandable after battering out three albums in four years. ‘This Is Your Life’ simply smashed ‘Road To Nowhere’ into ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and hoped for the best; the salsa smarm and sax riffs cheesed-up a nifty tune on ‘I Can’t Stay’ and Big Belters like ‘Neon Tiger’ and ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’ fell flat in comparison to the cathedral demolishers they slapped all over ‘Sam’s Town’. Plus, the second everyone nodded enthusiastically and green-lit all the lyrics without anyone piping up ‘um, sorry, I know we got away with that whole soul/soldier business, but surely ‘are we human or are we dancer?’ is a meaningless, violent and unforgivable disembowelment of the English language in its bed right?’ the album inevitably began to sound (unfairly) like a shrugged ‘will this do?’
Boasting four producers plus the band, ‘Battle Born’ was stylistically all over the shop – the shop in question being Massive 80s Soundland. But if you re-tune your ears to filter out any hints of Bryan Adams and Meatloaf, ‘Battle Born’ was a strong, solid and consistent collection of tunes, with ‘Runaways’ and ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ matching ‘Spaceman’ and ‘When You Were Young’ for pomp pop clout, ‘Deadlines And Commitments’ clambering aboard the Fleetwood Mac bandwagon and ‘From Here On Out’ gleefully swinging its partner around the Bruce barn-dance. Stadium-worthy stuff.
It can only have been the disappointment that they’d realised they were actually, gah, American that stopped ‘Sam’s Town’ from garnering the sort of plaudits it properly deserved. Yes they reacted to being called the Best New British Band (From America) by injecting huge doses of intravenous canyon and shrouding themselves in proud Springsteenisms, but they did it with power and panache. Beyond the obvious genius of ‘When You Were Young’, ‘Read My Mind’, ‘Bones’ and the deliciously dark ‘Uncle Johnny’, it’s a travesty that ‘My List’ and ‘Why Do I Keep Counting?’ don’t occupy the same chant-along status as ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ since they’re every bit as grand and overpowering, like a hypodermic of pure melody punched directly into your chest cavity.
Wrangle over the production leanings of its offspring as much as we like, The Killers’ debut stands as their towering achievement because a lack of studio spangles revealed a band brimming with ambition, ballsiness and the sort of raw, ravenous hooks that stomped up and demanded headline billing. Sure it was front-loaded: how, by God’s knackers, they ever thought they could follow an opening five track run taking in ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine’, ‘Somebody Told Me’, ‘Mr Brightside’ and culminating in ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ – a show-stopper so monumental it could kill off The Mousetrap – is a mystery akin to a recession-stricken nation actually celebrating the encroaching birth of a major public-fund-sucking infant lizard parasite. But even the rough-edged likes of ‘Andy, You’re A Star’, ‘Believe Me Natalie’ and the quasi-comic ‘Glamorous Indie Rock’n’Roll’ (a sneering attack on unambitious guitar music that sounded, without a sniff of irony, like Marion) stood up well to the challenge, rounding off a modern classic that, today, gleams all the brighter for its lack of polish.
Listen to a selection of The Killers' music from each album in the Spotify playlist below: