Hot Fuss

The Killers

Island Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/01/2008

Not since U2 has there been coup for Island Records as important as signing The Killers. The first time I saw their video for “Somebody Told Me” actually being played on MTV, I knew that this band was poised to take on the world as the “next big thing.”  Indeed, they did break on through to the other side, selling six million copies of their debut album Hot Fuss and snagging a couple of Grammy nominations in the process.

Dismissed by many critics as being too retro sounding, the Jeff Saltzman-produced Hot Fuss was nevertheless just what I had been hungering for: rock with an electronic edge – something I didn’t think would be possible in this day and age. Fans of ‘80s pop were just as bowled over by this record as the British were. Not bad for an American act that hails from Las Vegas and has a Mormon named Brandon Flowers as its front man. No, he’s not gay, so don’t let those sly gender-bending lyrics of his fool you into believing otherwise. Sure, he’s also got a slight build and has a penchant for wearing eyeliner, but that’s as far as it goes. Perhaps all the personal interview questions will cease now that he’s gotten married to a woman, grown a beard and released a follow-up album (Sam’s Town) that made Bruce Springsteen proud. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.nbtc__dv_250

Before Flowers got all grungy on us, he was riding the first wave of fame and proving that he was up to the challenge of being a charismatic cover boy and talented musician.  The first half of Hot Fuss has a frenetic pace that rarely lets up. The dense feel is at times almost claustrophobic, but the intensity is certainly impressive. Forming the basis of the album, there are four hit singles and four songs named after supposedly real people. In addition to the bisexuality themed “Somebody Told Me,” there is the overplayed “Mr. Brightside” and the breezy Cure sound-alike, “Smile Like You Mean It.” Then there is the band’s anthem of monumental proportions, “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Yes, it does feature a catchy refrain that doesn’t make a bit of sense, but it does make you think when Brandon sings, “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” When The Killers opted to perform just one song at the all-important Live8 show in London, this was the one they wisely chose.

With the opening sound of a helicopter touching down, “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” kicks the album off with roaring guitars and Flowers’ soaring vocal. All four band members really sound as though they mean business here, signifying that the Killers have arrived and are insatiably hungry for fame to come knocking. Despite its awkward pacing, the track “Andy, You’re A Star” caused quite a stir when Flowers explained it was about a crush he used to have on a boy back in high school. Of course, he would later retract this story, but by then the public at large had already formulated an opinion about his sexuality. Additional songs about boys and girls in equal measure (“Believe Me, Natalie” and “Ballad Of Michael Valentine”) would only add more fuel to the fire.

Another one of my favorites on Hot Fuss is the muted, yet strangely haunting “Everything Will Be Alright.” You can’t help but wonder if this title has become Brandon Flowers’ personal mantra as he navigates his way along the treacherous path of celebrity. Had he not the support of his band as a buffer and a strong Mormon faith to guide him, the stress would undoubtedly been too much for this sensitive soul to handle. Now that he has supposedly found love and it seems as though The Killers are going to be here to stay, perhaps Flowers will be able to breathe a little easier and focus on being creative once again. This guy has a tremendous amount to offer the world of music, and I for one will be paying close attention to see what this curious master of illusion pulls out of his hat next.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.