Island Records · September 15th, 2017
“The Killers have come out of their cage with their first release in five years, and they’re getting personal this time.”
On Wonderful Wonderful, the band’s first LP in five years, the Killers aim to show that they’ve grown up in the 13 years since their debut. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Flowers explained that he wanted to write a more “grown-up record” that represents where him and the band are at this point in their lives. One of the singer’s main goals of the new record was to avoid becoming a predictable, aging artist and get more personal than he’s ever gotten on their previous releases. After getting married and having a child, there are so many new experiences and challenges Flowers has dealt with that separate him from the 21-year-old who wrote Hot Fuss. ‘The Man,’ the first single released in preparation for the record, directly addresses this in a tongue-in-cheek way. In the upbeat funk-inspired track (complete with a direct reference to Bowie’s ‘Fame’), Flowers writes from the perspective of his past self with a goal of satire. The message gets a bit lost, but the track strays from anything the band has done before musically and gives some much-needed new flavor to the formula the they’ve been using for over a decade without losing their energy. Flowers’ introspection continues with ‘Tyson vs Douglas,’ in which he uses his experience of viewing Mike Tyson’s first losing fight as a child to reflect on the idea of idols and his need to keep up the strong idol persona for his family. The energy of this song is reminiscent of previous work and is relieving to hear.
Flowers uses this album to explore the general challenges of reaching this point in his life, but it’s largely fueled by the specific challenge of learning how to deal with his wife’s newly manifested Complex PTSD. Five of the ten songs on the album are specifically about her. The sentiment behind them is heartfelt and interesting to read into, however the songs themselves are definitely hit or miss. ‘Rut’ deals with her submitting to her depression and coming to terms with the cycle. The emotion is sincere in the lyrics, but most of the song is boring and static and does nothing to convey that sincerity musically. The lackluster melody and strange production ruin a track with potential, which is unfortunately not an isolated issue on this record. The track ‘Some Kind of Love’ is more successful in getting personal with a dreamy chord progression borrowed from Brian Eno and an outro in which Flowers’ children join him in singing to his wife. It’s easily one of the most personal songs in Flowers’ repertoire, and while it doesn’t really sound like the Killers, it has a place within the context of the album. The one track that acts as a relief from the new direction they’re going in is ‘Run for Cover,’ which was actually intended to be released nearly a decade ago. It’s easily the least personal, but its simplicity and energy just make it a fun track that reminds listeners of what the band has always been best at – pop-rock songs meant to be played loudly.
The goal of growing up is manifested quite well lyrically with songs that dive deeper into Brandon Flowers’ personal life than anything the band has previously released. The theme of getting personal unfortunately doesn’t work well enough to prevent the album from feeling disjointed. Musically, the goal of avoiding predictability hasn’t been fully achieved either. Some songs are a bit unexpected in their influences (like the funk in ‘The Man’ and the Brian Eno inspired ‘Some Kind of Love’), but Wonderful Wonderful ultimately still sounds like a normal Killers record with a bit less energy.
Listen to Wonderful Wonderful here: