After five long years, The Killers have burst back onto the music scene with their long-awaited fifth studio album. The results are… mixed. Sonically, the album feels all over the place and only a few songs sound like Killers tracks. However, knowing the inspiration for much of the album helps. During frontman Brandon Flowers’ brief foray into a solo career, his wife Tana experienced a major depressive episode and suicidal ideation. This culminated in Brandon canceling his solo tour to be with her. At least half the album is about this very issue. However, the band tackles other ideas, including political-based topics. As poignant and clearly personal as much of the album is, it still feels like a step down for the band. Much of the time it’s closer to slow adult contemporary than rock. From the band that brought us such anthems as “Mr. Brightside” and “When You Were Young,” it feels wrong and even boring. Still, it’s far from a bad album. It’s deeply introspective and explores mental illness in an authentic way. And now, here is a track-by-track review of the band’s latest effort Wonderful Wonderful:
- Wonderful Wonderful: This opening track is easily the most atmospheric thing The Killers have ever released. It’s a drum-heavy track, perfect for the interpretive dance I imagine in my head whenever I hear it. This is the first of the many songs about Brandon’s wife’s depression. Through this song, he tries to give her hope. Given the orchestral grandiosity of the track, he clearly thinks very highly of her. Despite feeling underwhelmed by it at first, somewhere along the line this song became one of my favorites.
- The Man: The first single off the album, this Bowie-esque track brought the band back with a bang. The song is about Brandon’s public image (or, as he puts it, the person he was when they first started the band). He’s the best of the best and the other band members are irrelevant. It’s a swaggering jam that is often contradicted by the unsureness Brandon displays on the rest of the songs. It’s so much fun to sing along to and is another favorite.
- Rut: This song calls back to the power ballads of the ‘80s, soaring at mid-tempo. Brandon sings from his wife’s perspective as she struggles through her depression. According to him, it’s the only song he’s ever released that he made sure she was okay with before releasing and the one he’s most passionate about. Again, despite the difficult topic, Brandon imbues the song with hope. Tana will “climb and [she’ll] climb” and get through this difficult time. It’s one of the few songs on the album I loved on first listen and another favorite.
- Life to Come: Another track about his wife’s battle with depression, this one chronicles Brandon’s unwavering love for her through it all. She doubts he could still love her, but he says when he made his vows he “was talking ‘bout the life to come.” This is the kind of love and support all people with depression deserve. Side note: the way he says “girl” in this song gets me feeling some type of way. Easily one of the most moving tracks on the album.
- Run for Cover: The second single off the album, this one is the most authentically Killers. With angry guitar and pounding drums, The Killers discuss life in an unsure political client. There are references to affairs, dishonesty, and even Trump. It perfectly captures the panicking fear felt by the masses since the election. It’s probably my most favorite on the album.
- Tyson vs. Douglas: Using Tyson’s shocking loss against Douglas as a backdrop, The Killers posit on growing up and facing harsh truths. Mike Tyson was one of Brandon’s heroes as a kid, and he was devastated that the man he thought was infallible could fail. Now, a father and hero to his three sons, he worries about letting them down. He asks Tyson how he handled the upset, anxious guitar underscoring his every word. Actual audio from the fight is used, a clear echo in Brandon’s worried mind. I’d call it another favorite.
- Some Kind of Love: This song, though ostensibly a love song, is actually a plea to Brandon’s wife to stay alive. He tells her what he loves about her: her free spirit, her endurance, and her innocent belief. The song ends with his children singing with him. They tell her “Can’t do this alone./ We need you at home.” It’s extremely devastating in a loving way.
- Out of My Mind: This mid-tempo track is a love song for Brandon’s wife. He acknowledges they’ve had rough times, but she’s still always on his mind. Even though they’ve been married for years, he still tries to impress her by telling her about all the legends he’s performed with (Springsteen, McCartney, etc.), but she doesn’t care. She loves him for him, not what he does or who he knows. It’s a strangely cute song and a personal favorite.
- The Calling: Inspired by a painting, this bluesy song chronicles the fictionalized story of a man coming back to town to deal with his deadbeat dad. This song is drowning in religious imagery, including Woody Harrelson reading a Bible passage to open the track. It’s bass-heavy and ominous, like the air right before a fight. It’s another song I fell in love with on first listen and another favorite.
- Have All the Songs Been Written?: This ballad— the only one on the album— is about writer’s block. It’s also a song to Brandon’s wife. This is the song where he doesn’t quite know what to say to help her or if he’s even helping at all. It’s bleak and hopeless, the polar opposite of the tone of the rest of the album. And yet, Brandon still feels some hope on the bridge. As helpless as the situation seems, he still believes deep down that he can fix it. It that way, it’s also kind of sweet.
- Money on Straight: The only bonus track that’s not just a remix, this song is about gun violence. The band is calling for a change in old attitudes, saying things won’t change if we don’t do anything. The verses seem to be mocking conservative platitudes, showing how empty and meaningless they are. The vague pick-me-ups are paralleled by the cold reality of gun violence. Brandon emphasizes the need for change by showing how things haven’t progressed since he was a child. My only regret is that it’s not on the standard album.
Despite how important it is, this is still The Killers’ weakest album to date. It hardly qualifies as rock and lacks their strong personality. It’s deep, but boring. But I haven’t given up on The Killers. Like the band, I still have hope.