Thursday, August 24, 2006

Track Review: "When You Were Young" by The Killers

The Killers were everybody's favorite retro-rock band of 2004. Their debut album, Hot Fuss, was adored by both the corporate music world (the radio played them, Rolling Stone and Spin sung their praise, and U2 took them on tour) and the indie music world (their obvious Smiths influence as well as their exuberant anthem "Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll" won them some credibility). Band leader Brandon Flowers has even become something of a heart-throb.

Hot Fuss was a near perfect debut; every song sounded like a single. The first song we probably all heard was "Somebody Told Me." A very fun tune, but I worried that they were just a New Order novelty band. And then the heart-on-his-sleeves lyrics of "Mr. Brightside" hit the airwaves and every emo kid and TRL viewer fell in love. But it really wasn't until "All These Things That I've Done" that I realized that this band has some real soul.

So how should an alternative rock band like the Killers follow up a top-selling, perfect debut like Hot Fuss? Should they go back to the basement like Nirvana did with In Utero? Or should they create a commerically-disastrous cult classic like Weezer did with Pinkerton? Or perhaps they should just cave in to the pressure and realize that you can only save rock and roll once, like the Strokes did with Room on Fire?

Or maybe the Killers should just try to take over the world. That's what "When You Were Young" sounds like. First off, it's better than anything on Hot Fuss. The guitars soar higher than "Beautiful Day." Yes, this is a guitar band just as much as it is a keyboard band. Now, the vocal melody might throw you a bit. The Boss? Yep, the Boss. Reportedly, American rock, like Springsteen and Tom Petty, is a great influence on the new album. This doesn't mean we won't hear that British influence anymore. It just means that the Killers might be the biggest band in America in 2007. How great would it be to have an American band (they hail from Las Vegas) be the biggest band in America again? Aw, shucks! I'm getting all patriotic!

Flag-waving aside, what is truly impressive about "When You Were Young" is the lyrical content. Hot Fuss had some fun and sometimes clever lyrics. But this single is definitely a step up. Brandon Flowers must have become a student of Bono's school of songwriting: the best songs are the songs about the search for God. "When You Were Young" is about a not-so-young woman who is waiting for "some beautiful boy" to come along and save her from "her old ways." (Regret seems to be a recurring theme in Flowers writing already.) Flowers writes that this beautiful boy "doesn't look a thing like Jesus, but he talks like a gentlemen, just like you imagined when you were young."

Youth lost? Love lost? Salvation found? "When You Were Young" is available for download on Itunes now (or you can stream it for free on the Killer's official site, you tightwad!) Watch for the Killer's new album, Sam's Town, on October 3rd.


Tim said...

Well, they weren't my favorite band in 2004, but I did love hearing "somebody told me that you had a boyfriend that looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year" while I toiled away in the electronics department of the Muncie Target...that's a really clever lyric, I'd say, and then stock 50 more of their $9.99 CD (that's 9.00 after Target discount, wow!), never considering actually buying the thing.

But now I'm thinking I might give it a listen.

Nice post. Thanks.

Tim said...

above should read "favorite retro-rock band" instead of "favorite band" (crazy train of thought interrupting kids).

Tim said...

Well, I took your advice. I read this post and promptly went and purchased the new Razorlight Album...oh wait, that's not what this post was about...

JohnLDrury said...

Well-reasoned review. The phenomenon of follow-ups is so crucial and I am glad to see that The Killers are on the right path. Especially important is the willingness to stay on track without becoming stylistically narrow. Too many bands are just a concept that covers themselves for four albums then disappears with little impact. The Killers have long term potential and this single seems to indicate they may foll through on it.

John said...

I love this song. I'm the boss on it singing on Rock Band. Rock band also made me appreciate the guitar more and the instrumental break.

Go Killers! I hope they can reclaim fame again soon.