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‘Wonderful Wonderful’ is familiarly flawed, but so incredibly filled with passion

(‘The Killers’ / The Killers Official Website)

The Killers finally return from their five year hiatus for their passion-filled album “Wonderful Wonderful.” The band that needs little introduction, ruling the indie radio with the back-to-back hits of “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” along with “When You Were Young” and “Human” within the following years.

Though their projects often fall short, every subsequent album brings a very unique touch, such as 2008’s “Day & Age,” brimmed with Bowie-influenced glam rock and touches of new age. Their last album, Battle Born, had gentle touches reminiscent of The National.

“Wonderful Wonderful” appeared with the lead single “The Man”—boastful and braggadocios, a confident and surprising return. Touring for years after Battle Born, Flowers eventually left early with “brimming creativity.”

Their fifth album pulls the curtains and strides on stage, falling to the band’s familiar hubris of underdeveloped ideas. However, these are talented musicians with every song oozing all night studio sessions and genuine passion.

The album opens with the eponymous “Wonderful Wonderful,” dancing in a hard rock soundscape- an almost self-inflicted anger of their absence. Slamming drums and deep, alternative bass play under Flowers’ much-too-pretty voice, but drive to the hard-hitting chorus of Flowers slugging through his wife’s depression.

The hard rock ballad is wrapped in passion, as if Flowers is on his knees, pleading for his love back. The final bridge drops the album title with a heartbreaking plea. While tonally dissonant, next is the single “The Man.”

The hard rock eases for more radio-ready music. The track continually drives, leaving little room for a restful breath, although it makes short breaks like the line “USDA- certi-fied lean” even clutcher.

Playful synths round out the chaotic soundscape, along with accents of cash register dings that grin with the familiarity of Pink Floyd’s “Money.” Again, a sonic whiplash brings the next track “Rut” with the all too recognizable Journey-esque delivery from Flowers, like a desperate run down empty street. It shares the flaws of the previous song, almost too excited to be back in the studio. There’s little space to appreciate all the work and love The Killers clearly crafted in their new work.

“Run For Cover” continues the hard rock licks while retaining Flowers’ need for pretty synths. Fortunately, it’s always lent a unique sound to their albums. Flowers gives an almost pop-punk performance in his delivery with a need to exhilarate and push his words all too fast.    The grab-and-never-let-you-rest motif of the album could work, if not spliced with inconsistent tempo drops every two songs. The most adventurous departure comes from the curiously titled “Tyson vs Douglas,” the intro sampling Mike Tyson falling in the ring that signaled his first losing streak.

While the album often misses the mark, it’s hard not to fall for its endearing charms with these songs of autobiographical accounts of Flowers’ need to be a strong father for his children. While maybe hokey, “Out Of My Mind” feels like a simpler time, an 80s ballad that even name drops Springsteen and Graceland and Paul McCartney—no doubt his idols. I know first-hand it’s hard not to dedicate a line here and there for your musical heroes.

Wailing synths and Flowers’ refrain over a brief guitar solo end the song too brief. It’s clear the band picked up the heart-pounding delivery of power metal and pop-punk, but lack the proper pacing to create the rise and calculated falls of a proper sonic rollercoaster that fills an album.

The closer poses the question “Have All The Songs Been Written?” The title was apparently taken from Flowers’ email to friend and prolific U2 singer, Bono, the title as the subject of Brandon’s email. Bono, probably with a warm smile, replied “Why don’t you start there? That’s a great title for a song.”

The meta-song refrains with a beautiful “I just need one more [song] to get through to you. I can’t take back what I’ve done wrong. I just need one more.” Even at 36, Brandon Flowers is wonderfully a teenager at heart. It’s only through experience and pain that lets him write a nicely nuanced chorus like this—it might be the best on the album.

“Wonderful Wonderful” is rushed, but not because of deadlines or trying to fill in some lack of material. The music feels underdeveloped and the lyrics lack focus, but it’s fascinating to hear such a passion project that wants to empty every ounce of creativity bottled up in five years.         It’s clear The Killers just need to sit and meticulously place their ideas in proper structure, but the album is far from unworthy of a listen. The cover—a child’s hand holding a perfectly shaped conch shell—is clearly reflective of Flowers grinning ear to ear, holding the CD after it was finally mastered, and begging to release it as soon as possible.

 

Matthew Joseph can be reached at mejoseph@umass.edu.

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