Brandon Flowers' new album, The Desired Effect, isn't the worst album I've heard this year—and if that sounds like suspect praise, well, it's the best you're going to get out of me. The album's surprisingly tinny-sounding replicas of the Springsteen-goes-new wave lane owned by Flowers' main act the Killers are more effective than the placid balladry found on his last solo album, 2010's boring Flamingo—but both don't hold a candle to the Killers' unbelievable singles repertoire, not to mention a few choice deep cuts scattered along their admittedly scatterbrained discography.
I love the Killers, but no one loves the Killers like Brandon Flowers loves the Killers. Look, see for yourself: “I’d go up any night against just about any band that’s come out in the last 15 years,” he recently told UK paper The Independent. “Not that it’s a competition, but I do feel sometimes people don’t have a grasp on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve acquired. Everyone should come see the Killers! We’re more than just a New Wave revival thing.”
He's right: everyone should come see the Killers. But seriously, is there a case to be made for the Killers as the best band of the 15 years? I'm not asking, I'm just putting forth my evidence, your honor. Behold:
1. “Mr. Brightside”
Starting with something that isn’t the hardest sell, I know—even those most allergic to the Killers’ charms can’t resist this beaming breakout single from their 2004 debut Hot Fuss. What’s really stuck with me over the years, though, is the campy-as-hell, showy theatrical non-narrative of the video, a fever dream of moony-eyed, the-girl-isn’t-mine Caucasian misery that Seth from The O.C. would’ve conjured in his sleep right before a nocturnal emission (Hot Fuss indeed!). Nothing is more Bush-era than the video for “Mr. Brightside”—it’s as American as waterboarding.
2. ‘Sam’s Town’
Myth-making is an essential skill for any rock band looking to become true legends in the game—and there’s nothing that makes a myth more effectively than an overhyped sophomore album with a ridiculous conceptual bent from a band that the British rock press once thought would save the world. As proven earlier in this piece, Brandon Flowers has a big fucking mouth, so his telling Giant magazine that the Killers’ 2006 record would be “one of the best albums in the past twenty years” probably set, uh, unreasonable expectations—which would explain why the record was so poorly received upon release. Shame: there’s at least five fire songs on here (“When You Were Young,” “For Reasons Unknown,” “Read My Mind,” “Bones,” “This River Is Wild”). When’s the last time you released five fire songs? DIDN’T THINK SO.
3. The costumes
The costumes! The costumes. No major-tier rock band (except for Coldplay, maybe) have clearly put as much (maybe more?) thought into what they're wearing than what they're doing while they're wearing what they're wearing. I mean, they've sported vests, bolo ties, mustaches, marching band uniforms — and feathers! Fucking feathers. I'd like to see Dave Grohl having that much fun doing anything besides, like, cranking one out in the Muscle Shoals bathroom.
4. Vegas, baby
The Killers are from Las Vegas, and they certainly sound like they're from Las Vegas — a little seedy in a way you can't put your finger on, but also with some nice fireworks and lit-up fountain displays that your parents would enjoy if you could just get them to STOP TRYING TO BOOK CIRQUE DU SOLEIL TICKETS ON YOUR IPHONE FOR A MINUTE AND LOOK AT THE FUCKING FOUNTAIN, MOM. Also, the singularness of their origins is important: can you name another major-label rock band from the last 15 years from Las Vegas? I'll be sitting here rocking out to "Losing Touch" while you think, take your time.
5. Brandon Flowers has a big fucking mouth
Look, Oasis broke up years ago, and they started really sucking long before they broke up—but part of why they remain such a viable cultural force (besides Definitely, Maybe, of course) is because the Gallagher brothers just Can’t. Shut. Their. Mouths. Flowers isn’t as acerbic as Noel and Liam, but he’s certainly forthcoming and real-deal when it comes to speaking his mind. That’s how this whole list thing started, right? Viva la Killers, and long may the Flowers grow.