The moment you’re pictured by the side of a deserted highway sporting a shoestring tie and desperado moustache, gazing reflectively at a cactus, it becomes inevitable that you will one day duet with Bruce Springsteen. Particularly if you’d previously reacted to people assuming you were British on your first album by going maximum Boss on your second.
It seems amazing, then, that it took The Killers 13 years since the release of their desert rock epic ‘A Dustland Fairytale’ to re-record it with that legendary personification of a motorcycle leap over the Grand Canyon – and even then at Bruce’s texted request, after he watched the band play the song on Glastonbury repeats in February 2020. But they certainly make up for the delay in terms of celebratory bombast. ‘Dustland’ doesn’t just evoke the desolate grandiosity of a mile-wide Arizona chasm: it virtually slams so hard into the earth it forms its own.
Since Brandon Flowers wrote ‘Dustland…’ in 2008 as a tribute to his parents’ 44-year love affair, replete with the sort of “white trash” struggle and romance that Springsteen long since made his own, The Killers have become a powerhouse band, no longer relying on Flowers’ synth lines to give their songs a stratospheric glide but bulking up their entire sound into a sonic star destroyer. Here, after the song’s wistful balladeering intro, where Brandon and Bruce swap verses full of serenaded Cinderellas and bare-knuckle devils like master and pupil of heartfelt Americana, they unleash their full firepower in one almighty barrage, with a symphony orchestra lobbed on top for good measure.
‘Dustland…’ is a song that always threatened to collapse under its own weight, and its re-recording comes perilously close. Both Flowers and Springsteen bellow to be heard amid the tumult, and occasionally sink beneath string sections, which sound like they’ve taken to horseback and started charging a barricade.
But as the culmination of The Killers’ ‘00s mission to concoct their Great American Epic, it’s almost more about the statement than the song, and Brandon and Bruce joining forces on this Hollywood remake is more about uniting generations finding glory in truck stop tales – at a time when America could do with being reminded why it used to be worth celebrating – than perfecting the “good girls die” crescendo. Of all The Killers’ recent collaborations, it’s the boot that fits them best.
Now, though, a co-write really would be the stuff of fairytales.