Whatever guitarist Dave Keuning’s reasons for taking time out of The Killers’ schedules, it’s certainly not down to chronic tune deficiency. His solo debut ‘Prismism’ is as driving and dynamic a set of hooks as have graced any of the band’s albums, or frontman Brandon Flowers’ own solo records. And while it’s tempting to start imaging them in Brandon’s voice, slotted in place of the slacker moments of ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’ or ‘Battle Born’, where they arguably belong (Dave has claimed these are songs that slid off the bottom of The Killers’ pile), as a document of Keuning’s impressive song-writing chops it stands alongside ‘Yours To Keep’, Albert Hammond Jr’s masterful 2006 step from the Strokes’ shadow.
Ducking between The Killers’ sumptuous, ’80s-steeped synth-pop, desert rock, electro-Strokes dynamism and melodic laptop experiments, ‘Prismism’ hints at turbulent waters beneath Keuning’s steely, homebody demeanour. “I can’t sleep, I plan my escape,” he intones in his endearing baritone amid the euphoric sizzle of ‘Boat Accident’ – a beautiful marriage between Weezer and The Buggles that should have been arranged decades ago – while the gentler (but no less catchy) ‘The Night’ suggests even more restless evenings: “this fight is over and I can see the light”.
It’s natural to read the relationship woes of tracks such as ‘The Queen’s Favourite’ (“This road is unforgiving”), ‘Broken Clocks (“I’m finally out, out in the cold / All these mind games, it’s getting old”) or ‘High Places’ (“Starting fights straight out of thin air / I’m living on eggshells and I just don’t care”) as Killers metaphors. ‘I Ruined You’ could even detail a hedonistic on-the-road breakdown, Dave punching walls as the song punches the air: “all I want is anywhere but here,” he sings, his phone flung out of the hotel room window and his best friend the bathroom floor.
But with ‘Restless Legs’ as great an ’80s pop song as The Killers ever mimicked, the Gallic acoustics of ‘Gimme Your Heart’ adorned with heavenly Busby Berkeley choirs and ‘Stuck Here On Earth’ sounding so relevant it could be a preview of The 1975’s much-anticipated fourth album ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’, the real revelation is ability of The Killers’ (reportedly) least engaged member to turn in a solo record this vibrant and accomplished. As strong an argument for song-writing democracy as we’ve heard.