For most of the year, The Killers are the suave Vegas synth-indie showmen we know and love, but one whiff of a Brussels sprout and they instantly transform into the 21st century Slade.
For 11 years, Brandon Flowers and co have been roping in fellow musicians and celebrities to record Christmas songs in aid of the (RED) Aids charity and make star-studded videos, bringing seasonal joy to those of us who revel in the sight of the more smile-averse, too-cool-for-yule Killers Dave Keuning and Mark Stoermer dutifully dusting off their elf suits and antlers once a year.
Launched in 2006, The Killers’ (RED) project, collected here on their first Christmas album, veered from the ridiculous to the sublime and swiftly back again. The first instalment, ‘A Great Big Sled’, features Curve’s Toni Halliday on what’s essentially a standard Killers pop epic with sleigh bells on. But the band’s tour manager Ryan Pardey soon became the star of the series, portraying a demented Bad Santa hunting down a child-killing Brandon to extract murderous revenge on ‘Don’t Shoot Me Santa’ and its two sequel songs: menacing stalked-by-Santa synth anthem ‘I Feel It In My Bones’ and last year’s glam Elvis boogie ‘Dirt Sledding’, in which Santa forgives, forgets and puts Brandon back on his ‘nice list’.
Even though their more comic yuletide crackers were as novelty and jingle-belled as the worst festive excesses of Mel Smith and Kim Wilde, The Killers’ sharp wit, melodic opulence and theatrical class fights back the tidal wave of cheese that floods most other acts’ Xmas efforts. Take ‘Joel The Lump Of Coal’, featuring Jimmy Kimmel as a malicious Santa giving a bad kid the titular “lump of anthracite” – a Beatledelic heart-warmer that’ll make you believe Donald Trump was right to feel mindless affection for fossil fuels.
But when The Killers take yuletide more seriously – rattling out a gorgeous mariachi romance on ‘¡Happy Birthday Guadalupe!’, picturing lovelorn actors and drunkards on ‘Christmas In LA’ and ‘Boots’ or considering what it’s like to be cuckolded by God alongside Neil Tennant and Elton John on ‘Joseph, Better You Than Me’ – they conjure stirring festive anthems that make ‘Don’t Waste Your Wishes’ a worthy addition to their canon and among the best Xmas albums ever made. It all ends with Brandon’s moving duet on ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ with the fourth-grade teacher who inspired him to get into music; go on, just try not to hug your mum.