Alternative rock band touches on sensitive themes in latest album
October 5, 2017
Five years since their last release, The Killers break back into the music scene with “Wonderful World”—a ten-track epic that pulls back the curtain on masculinity and commitment. Known for their deliberate approach to songwriting, the monolithic rockers behind the project put themselves in their most vulnerable place yet.
Within these tracks, they touch on a variety of sensitive issues including mental illness, masculinity, compassion, love and loss. Avoiding typical tropes of rock & roll, they pick away at these subjects with their usual kit of lyrical prowess, inventive instrumentation and unquestionable care for their work.
The album starts with the eponymous track “Wonderful Wonderful.” The song breaks out with the sounds of a distant synthesized trumpet, answered quickly by the pounding of drums as if calling an army to war. This introduction is followed by a growling bass line. The sparse instrumentation is layered tastefully with reverb, creating the illusion of space.
Despite the darkness of the song, the lyrics are wholesome, at times even hinting at the shocking musical backing. Being the title track, the song touches on themes discussed throughout the album. Primarily, it is a message to Tana Flowers, the wife of frontman Brandon Flowers. She is referred to throughout the piece as “motherless child.”
Abandoned by her mother very early in life, she was scarred by her childhood—according to Brandon. He uses the imagery of a drought to describe his wife’s depression. In reference to that, the pre-chorus of the track encourages the listener to “keep your ear to the shell” to hear the ocean in efforts to ward off the drought.
The bittersweet opening song is followed by the life-affirming track “The Man.” Opening with the bite of a sawtooth synth, the track quickly transforms into a swaggering, slick-haired tune. The song introduces the issue of masculinity as a theme throughout the album. While explored with more nuance later, the band introduces this phenomenon in its archetypal form. The chorus swells with a proclamation of: “I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man.” The brash, cocky portrayal of manhood in these lyrics is bound to leave the listener with some questions. Perhaps this hard, masculine shell is only that.
The chugging soulfulness of “The Man” is quelled by the breathtaking, tear-jerking sweetness of “Rut.” No commentary can do this track the justice it deserves. Giving Dan Auerbach and Harry Nilsson, sensitive-rock legends, a run for their money, this song will be the most wholesome listen of 2017. The song is introduced with a plea, likely framed as a request from Tara: “Don’t give up on me / ‘Cause I’m just in a rut / I’m climbing but the walls keep stacking up.” This is answered immediately by the following song.
Sounding just like something off of Springsteen’s Magic, “Life to Come” eases the melancholy anxiety of “Rut.” Again making use of the near-tribal percussion of the title track, the piece is lush and driving. The steadfast, confidence of the singing answers Tana’s “Don’t give up on me” with a heartfelt chant of “I didn’t see this comin’, I admit it / But if you think I’ll buckle, forget it / I told you that I’d be the one / I’ll be there in the life to come.”
In “Tyson vs Douglas,” confidences are broken. Dreams crash to bits. The image of masculinity as propagated by “The Man” is cast aside. A narrative regarding Mike Tyson’s loss to Buster Douglas in what the press called “the greatest upset in sports history,” Flowers reflects on the life changing impact of this loss on himself, friends and family. The image of masculinity, the unbroken Tyson, is felled in an instant. In sequence, so does his fa- çade of manhood. This follow-up to the second track is yet another hint at the thought pattern of the album. The Killers finish their album with a question: “Have All the Songs Been Written?” The track is a meditation on finality. The listener is left to ponder the end, and Tana is left with one more message: “I will make you happy again/I can see it, I believe it.”
“Wonderful Wonderful” introduces us to a new side of The Killers. This album is thoughtful, searingly well-produced and inspiring. The band sounds the tightest they ever have on this release. If you’re looking for an album of titanic proportions, give The Killers 43 minutes of your time, because they just gave us five years of theirs.
Contact Noah Sonnenburg at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.