The Killers’ highly anticipated fifth studio album, “Wonderful Wonderful,” came out on Sept. 22, breaking the band’s five years of silence since “Battle Born.” The Las Vegas-based band enticed their fervent fan base, known as “The Victims,” by releasing the single “Wonderful Wonderful” in mid-August. Lead singer Brandon Flowers said in an interview with NME months before the release, “I’m looking in the mirror on this record, and focusing a lot on my own personal experience.” And indubitably, “Wonderful, Wonderful” is the most intimate album from The Killers yet, which makes its triteness that much more disappointing.
“Wonderful Wonderful” aims to provide a comprehensive and impactful listening experience that encourages introspection, but a looming sense of superficiality makes the album miss its mark. Almost every track is chalked with personal imagery that on its own is evocative. But the effect of these moments is undermined by lyrics that aim to tackle heavy subjects but simply border on surface-level to the point of being irrelevant.
The tracks are easy to breeze through and suitable for passive background music, but are incorrigibly boring when made the center of attention.
The Killers’ attempted shift from their more traditional rock vibe by placing greater importance on an electronic production process is largely unsuccessful. The resulting noncommittal and weak instrumentals make it easy to dissociate from the music. The beats and melodic patterns sound like a poorly modernized mashup of The Cars and Bruce Springsteen that lacks any distinguishing attributes.
The Killers repeatedly attempt to evoke a larger sense of American culture and ideas of both spatial and emotional freedom with a certain man-on-the-road imagery. But by casually throwing in the name of a professional boxer who retired in the ’80s, actor Woody Harrelson's reading of a passage of the Bible and an entire song about a boxing match that happened in 1990, the band unsuccessfully expects this album to engage with random slices of American history while simultaneously creating meaning for their younger listeners. For a college-age student listening to the album, these references are so obscure that their purpose within the songs and the greater context of the album is confusing and ultimately isolating. This habit becomes particularly ostentatious as Flowers fancies himself part of a legacy of American legends, with lyrics like, “I stormed the gates of Graceland/To make you realize/Went back to back with Springsteen/You turned and rolled your eyes/So I told you about McCartney/And that’s a heavy name to drop.” Like these famous figures, Flowers and his band are trying to make a mark and maybe even provide a sense of unity and hope. But the album falls flat with overly broad statements that sound like classroom motivational posters.
However, it is evident that the album strives for a cohesive lyrical narrative. In the interview for NME, Flowers discussed the origins of “The Man,” saying that “it came from a place of insecurity and I just would puff my chest out and say things and put … a lot of negativity out there, and I basically came to regret that.” The music video tells a story of Flowers’ grab for popularity and masculine “coolness” in the early years of The Killers that leaves him with emptiness and rejection, but this message is impossible to glean from the lyrics alone. Songs like “Run For Cover,” “Rut” and “Some Kind of Love” also grapple with Flowers’ complicated relationship with his wife and her mental illness. At other times, he touches on ideas of social consciousness, though one would be hard-pressed to call it anything close to political commentary. Yet by the end of the album, there’s no sense of resolution or any strong takeaway. Instead, one feels rather inundated by hackneyed attempts to produce a universal anthem of daily struggles and understanding one’s own self.
Overall, there are certainly decent songs on the album that may experience a peak in popularity such as “The Man” and “Run for Cover.” But perhaps the last track “Have All The Songs Been Written?” rings a little too true, as The Killers’ trope-heavy album fails to impress.