Sometimes, when compiling the Sophie’s Choice of article that is a ‘rank the albums’ piece, 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, it’s all in the details. So, with The Killers’ glorious sixth album ‘Imploding The Mirage’ now in our earholes, let’s study the minutiae and work out which albums were human, and which were chancer…
6‘Day & Age’ (2008)
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 – understandably, perhaps, given that they’d battered 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’.
Also: somehow everyone nodded enthusiastically and green-lit 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 and unforgivable disembowelment of the English language in its bed, right?’. It’s still a tune, though, mind.
5‘Battle Born’ (2012)
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.
4‘Wonderful Wonderful’ (2017)
It strutted into sight with a cocky tap of its sequinned Stetson with ‘The Man’, but The Killers’ fifth album ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ was all about the woman. Namely Brandon’s wife Tana, whose personal struggles formed the backbone of the album on tracks like ‘Rut’, inspiring the band to reach beyond the nostalgic Americana bombast of ‘Battle Born’ for more intricate and evocative textures. So while the title track stirred up the earthy tones of ‘80s art rock (Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel), ‘The Calling’ brought a whole new level of Biblical attitude and ‘Some Kind Of Love’ saw them commune with the spirits.
Not that they pulled any power-rock punches, either – ‘Tyson Vs Douglas’ felt like going seven rounds with Don Henley’s ‘Boys Of Summer’. And they had baseball bats.
3‘Imploding The Mirage’ (2020)
With the entire concept of The Killers getting hazy at the edges – wherefore art thou, Dave? – ‘Imploding The Mirage’ saw the band remould themselves as a an open-door alt-pop collective, with the likes of Weyes Blood, The War On Drugs, Lucius and producers Ariel Rechtshaid, Shawn Everett and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado helping to usher them into more contemporary lanes.
As a result, Talking Heads funk (‘Fire In Bone’), futuristic synth-rock ambience (‘Running Towards A Place’) and synthetic crescendos designed to punch holes in the Earth’s crust (‘Caution’, ‘My God’) cohered with the band’s most consistent and uplifting set of tunes since ‘Sam’s Town’ to make a sister-piece to ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ that powered on to glory.
2‘Sam’s Town’ (2006)
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. After dressing themselves up as British indie-poppers for 2004 debut ‘Hot Fuss’, Brandon and co. here injected huge doses of intravenous canyon, shrouding themselves in proud Springsteenisms. Crucially, 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.
1‘Hot Fuss’ (2004)
You can wrangle over the production leanings, but 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 what the fuck Boris Johnson’s been doing amid the coronavirus crisis.