When two albums drop on the same day there can only be only survivor- this is Album WAR! This week, the Killer’s Wonderful Wonderful takes on the Horror’s V!
The Killers bring a lot of lumber on their latest release, Wonderful Wonderful , but fail to build anything substantial for all their accumulated materials on display. That is not to say that Wonderful Wonderful is a failure. Far from it. The Killers go well beyond the safe boundaries that an established commercial band needs to venture to turn a profit.
Wonderful Wonderful sees lead singer Brandon Flowers stretch his self expression and lower his armor which he previously bore as flamboyant glam-ish rocker, traded in here for a more autobiographical vulnerability that a younger Flowers would have been unable to articulate without the prerequisite miles under his boots.
Like the majority of the album, the opener, “Wonderful Wonderful”, leans heavily on U2 influences in both composition, instrumentation, and Flowers delivery. While they borrow the best they can from the Joshua Tree, the Killers lack the originality and therefore lose something in the translation with their honorable facsimiles merely existing.
“The Man” is a overtly funky dance number that sounds more like the Killers trying on someone else’s coat than sewing their own threads. The tracks is said to be Flowers comment on modern masculinity, ironic considering that the lyrics are largely vapid and superficial- which is perhaps a larger and truer indictment of the desperation of modern man to establish their presence to an inverse correlation of anything worth sharing.
Flowers is most impressive when he strays from what brought the Killers to the table in the first place. Tracks like “Rut” are impressive in both their honesty as well as their experimentation. It’s no Mr. Bungle but it is the first track on the album that feels like an evolution rather than simply borrowing. There is an evident 80s nostalgia throughout the album and while they wear their love of the decade on their sleeve, the band never overdoes it. “Rut” is a great example of this with its strong Phil Collins, Steve Winwood influences that enhance the track rather than distract from it.
Unfortunately, the Killers borrow not only from other musicians but themselves as well. “Rut” is followed immediately with the lesser “Come to Life” which follows in the same vein but is a model of diminishing returns with its tepid Coldplay middling nature.
It’s not all stranger in a strange land, as “Run for Cover” is a return to the classic Killers sound that takes the best from emo, disco, garage rock and blends a truly danceable track that sheds the weight of the more self-reflective numbers that precede it on Wonderful Wonderful . The same can be said for the suave, “Calling”. Of which, Simone Le Bon called and he wants “Personal Jesus” back.
“Have all the Songs Been Written?” is an unfortunately ironic title for a track on an album that borrows from so many other songs that came before. Snide quips aside, it is really great track and fitting ender for Wonderful Wonderful that highlights the tragedy of searching in vain for that one perfect line or song that will set the world to rights, all the while knowing nothing is ever that simple- replete with elegant David Gilmour styled guitar work that is nothing sneeze at indeed.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Standout Track: “Rut” A horse of another color to be sure. “Rut” does much to shed any preconceived notion to the limits of the Killer’s ability to arrange a thoughtful track. The heartening instrumentation soars as Flowers delivers some of his most honest lyrics to date.
The Horrors take you off guard just how good this unit can be with every new release. Tinkering in the dark underbelly of psychedelia, the Horrors reflect just that, the horrors of the Mind Universal and it is a wild ride therein.
Their fifth release, the aptly titled, V, carries with it their signature sound but its provides a definite sci-fi flavor for the outing. A theme evidenced by their synth-friendly opener “Hologram” which posits “Are we holograms?” in an unsettling manner that overtly questions the nature of man in an increasingly technological and cold world. While the track itself is an impressive extended jam it begins a trend on V that becomes increasingly redundant as the tracks progress. The majority of the tracks on V, including “Press Enter to Exit” feature false endings with “Strawberry Fields Forever” fade-in outros. While these are far from unpalatable, it becomes slightly predictable five songs in a row.
And that’s where the jury really rests with V. Do they know when to finish? V is part and parcel with the Horror’s knack for mining a track for every last note possible. However, entries like “Machine” burn a lot of wax to get to their crescendo payoffs, resulting in a number of also-ran middles that somewhat just happen without a lot dynamism going on.
While this may at times appear meandering, it works to their benefit on meditative tracks like “Point of No Reply” that play to the scarcity of composition. This and “Ghost” both benefit from an uncluttered soundscape that serve to highlight the nuanced atmospherics that the Horrors expertly employ to further immerse the listener into a unsettling world.
“Weighed Down” is a slower paced track but never meanders or loses the listeners attention, rather it draws them in with its deliberate and moody Echo and the Bunnymen approach that borrows and evolves from but never exploits as a quick cash-in or shortcut to originality in lieu of nostalgia.
“Gathering” is an outlier to the sound of the rest of the album, with its stripped down acoustic lead. The familiarity to the rest of V is in the fac that it is just not that memorable. There is nothing inherently wrong with the tracks but none stick with you long after listening.
The album’s closer, “Something to Remember me By” is a curious dance number that is more Killers than Horrors, if either. A disco beat with early Daft Punk stylings that come across out of date and does little to leave V on good graces going forward.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Stand out Track: “Weighted Down” Expectly captures the dreary wonderment of the Horrors and an affectionate delivering of Echo and the Bunnymen. A great rainy day groove to watch the day melt to.
Winner of the Week: The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful
A victory of inches, both bands put albums that are thoroughly entertaining. The Killers dared to stretch themselves into a somewhat unfamiliar territory and were able to return a more enriched band for their efforts. While certain tracks were little more than a love letter to U2, it reads more of a stylistic direction rather than a tawdry impersonation, of which the Killers are not strangers to such an accusation.
The Killers took risks with Wonderful Wonderful and exposed vulnerabilities that they could have easily kept behind armor. They grew as artists on this album. While this growth still holds strong roots in influences like U2 and Depeche Mode there is an overt attempt to cultivate these influences into something greater for their efforts.