I conducted an extensive quantitative study (a Twitter poll) over the weekend to see whose discography I should rank. I kicked this series off with Arctic Monkeys, and for the rest of these posts, I’ll take to Twitter to find out what artist’s catalogue I’ll be delving into next. For this poll, I was deciding among The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, and Beach House, and The Killers won with 30% of the vote, so here we are. Consequently, I spent the past week or so listening to the great songs and not-so-great songs from Brandon Flowers and Co.
As I was re-experiencing the entirety of The Killers’ discography, one quote from ringleader and vocalist Brandon Flowers continually resurfaced in my mind. “I feel like I write a lot of solid 6s and 7s,” he said in 2017. It’s strange to think that this quote came from Flowers, a frontman who seems wholly distanced from any form of humility. But this was him reckoning with the notion that The Killers have some excellent songs, very few terrible songs, and a wealth of slightly above-average material. Flowers and I have made similar observations about his music, and I’ll explore that further in the actual ranking.
I remember when The Killers released Battle Born. I was a sophomore in high school, and I was beginning to exit my staunch Killers fandom. Battle Born was one major reason I was doing so. I loved Hot Fuss and still do, frankly, but the Las Vegas quartet’s fourth LP fully convinced me of one thing: The Killers are classic rock now. I don’t mean that in an exclusively facetious sense, either. Brandon Flowers was clearly trying his hardest to sound like a modernized incarnation of Bruce Springsteen, but all that listening to this record really makes me want to do is listen to Springsteen instead. Battle Born is the exemplar of what Flowers said about writing a lot of solid 6s and 7s because nothing on this record quite extends itself into greatness.
After several half-realized attempts to summon Springsteen’s aura, Flowers and Co. embrace synth-pop on their fifth record, Wonderful Wonderful. There’s the bravado-infused strut of “The Man,” the triumphant drive of “Run for Cover,” and the reverb-kissed balladry of “Some Kind of Love.” Although this album musically improves on the half-hearted sigh of Battle Born, it still retains Flowers’ middling attempts at drawing profundities from the tritest of circumstances (i.e. “You got the soul of a truck on a long-distance haul / You got the grace of the storm in the desert”). It feels like he is constantly trying to be deep in the same fashion that he was on Battle Born, but the songwriting overall is a slight step in the right direction.
Ah, Day & Age, the infamous turning point. It’s the first album from The Killers that warranted a double take. This was the same band that made Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town, right? Although Day & Age fizzles out from an abundance of weighty grandiosity, there are a handful of decent tracks on display. “Spaceman” is an instant highlight and possibly the best song from the record. “Human,” for all of its treacly tendencies, is still a solid indie-pop endeavor. This LP may foreshadow the next era of the band, but it still showcases The Killers at one of their better moments.
The alt-rockers’ latest effort, Imploding the Mirage, is unequivocally their best work in years. This is the heartland-influenced, Springsteen-esque record Flowers has wanted to make for a long time now. After a handful of futile attempts, The Killers have earned their victory lap. Imagine The War on Drugs with a pop-centric mentality, and you have Imploding the Mirage. Although the record is occasionally burdened with lyrical platitudes, it’s still an immediate stand-out among the band’s catalogue. “My God,” which features the incredibly talented Weyes Blood, is one of the best Killers tracks since Day & Age. “My Own Soul’s Warning” is the perfect opener, replete with a driving drumbeat, courtesy of Ronnie Vannucci Jr., and a memorable guitar hook. Imploding the Mirage is a massive step in the right direction on nearly all fronts.
The Killers’ sophomore album, Sam’s Town, is frequently overshadowed by its older sibling (I know I’m doing the same thing, but stay with me). But for how often it’s overshadowed, it’s still an excellent record in its own right. Where the band’s debut was a glamorized rendering of classic alternative and new-wave, Sam’s Town is a glamorized rendering of The Killers themselves. This is where the Las Vegas act established their own footing and identity in the alt-rock landscape. This is also where they wrote their traditional show-closer, “When You Were Young,” which is still one of the best songs they’ve ever written. But leaving it at that would be “This River Is Wild” erasure, sleepily one of the greatest Killers songs that often gets lost because of its placement toward the end of the record. Now, you all knew what no. 1 would be from the moment you clicked this link…
We all knew this was coming. Hot Fuss is an obvious no. 1 pick. I listened to it in full for the first time in years this past week, and I genuinely forgot how great it still is. “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” is probably my favorite Killers song (that’s a killer bassline), and even aside from clear highlights such as “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Mr. Brightside,” the deep cuts here are stellar, as well. The guitar riff of “Change Your Mind,” the Jimmy-Chamberlin-influenced drums of “Believe Me Natalie,” and the catchy synth hook of “On Top” coalesce to make Hot Fuss one of the best mid-aughts alternative albums. It’s still the best Killers album by a long shot, and it likely always will be.