The Killers - Wonderful Wonderful

by Mark Moody Rating:4 Release Date:2017-09-22

The Killers signal their return after five years with a long blow on the conch shell pictured on the cover of their new album, Wonderful Wonderful.  The cover image brings to mind the desert island setting and the object of power from Lord of the Flies - the story of a pack of boys stranded on a desert island where things go horribly awry.  The tale doesn’t end well for several of the boys or the pack of songs on display here.  Taking off from where 2012’s Battle Born left us, the band forges further into arena rock territory.  There is nothing terribly original or different this time out.  Whereas some bands can make the transition to larger venues and maintain their edge, these songs just seem to be bombastic for the sake of being bombastic.  Maybe that translates well in a football stadium, but it doesn’t exactly make for a great album or listening experience.  

After the long call at the beginning of the first, and title, track, the song ventures into a melding of U2’s ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ that should have lawyers in scramble mode.  It’s an inauspicious beginning to a sad all around affair.  From there Brandon Flowers and his crew venture into ‘The Man’, which starts starts vaguely Bowie-esque (though I hate to drag him into this), but quickly devolves into what has to be the worst song I have heard this year.  When I first heard the song several months ago and then saw an album was in the works, I prayed this would be a standalone single, but here it is again for us to endure.  The song made it to #1 on several charts and has its own Wikipedia page (!) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_(The_Killers_song).  The wiki page, if you want to go look, has 13 subtopics and lists 14 songwriters.  If that is true, and I can’t believe that it is, it is a perfect example of too many cooks in the kitchen.  It’s a disco inspired track that had to be pushed to the top of the charts from downloads by male revue troops (Aussie Thunder From Down Under, I’m looking at you).  With lines like “I’ve got money in the bank, I’ve got gas in the tank, I’m the man” and brags of being “USDA certified lean” this is prime material for a show stopper or the Magic Mike XXL soundtrack.

On the positive side, Flowers is in fine voice, and frankly has the perfect voice to carry a big sound and he manages to ride on top of everything here.  Everything played is note perfect and arena ready.  If that is the direction they are clearly going then there they succeed.  ‘Run For Cover’ stands out as a track that will undoubtedly carry well in a live context, and ‘Some Kind of Love’ is sleek, stylish and goes down easy as a low key ballad.  It’s a struggle to come up with much more that is redeeming here and that’s a shame.  The Killers of  ‘Jenny Was a Friend of Mine’ and ‘When You Were Young’ seem to have sailed away long ago, and it’s telling these are still the songs that get played on indie/alternative radio.  I don’t think its outside the realm of reason to hope for reconciliation to their past, but that doesn’t seem to be the strategy.  

Commentary here has focused on the singles as really there’s not much more to the album, aside from a few other awkward steps.  ‘Tyson vs. Douglas’ recalls the 1990 fight where Tyson suffered his first loss, but it’s hard to view Tyson as a sympathetic character especially in 20/20 hindsight.  That’s particularly true when the boy reimagining the fight has tears in his eyes at seeing his “hero” fall.  That song is not nearly bizarre as ‘The Calling’ that starts with what sounds like (and in fact is, I found out) Woody Harrelson reading some KJV verses out of the book of Matthew.  They could have at least gone with a more modern translation, but I guess that would have reduced the sense of drama.  It seems to tell the tale of an inveterate gambler who will ultimately have things catch up with him.  The album ends on a whimper with ‘Have All the Songs Been Written’ and fortunately for us the answer here is “Yes”.  

The Killers are playing a festival a few weeks out that I’m attending and was somewhat looking forward to seeing them for the first time.  But I’m not sure I can handle the queasiness upon hearing, “here’s another one from our new album, hope you like it.”  Undoubtedly the band aren’t idiots and if this is a calculated approach to sell downloads, sell tickets or the like, this must be the tack they want to take.  The band implores us to “don’t give up on me, I’m just in a rut” (on the not so cleverly titled ‘Rut’), but it’s getting a bit late in the game to hope for anything than more of the same.  Given their Vegas home, a standing show at Caesar’s may be the ultimate hope and there are a few songs here that could be worthy of a career retrospective, but they would have to close each night with ‘The Man’.            

Overall Rating (2)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great review Mark!

    In some ways the Killers are a million miles from where they started; unfortunately this latest release screams 'Dad-rock" to me...your line about the album cover says it all!

  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Thanks James. I try and find redeeming qualities in what I'm reviewing cos I have not an ounce of musical talent. It was hard to do in this case. I will listen to 'The Man' one more time in your honor!