Monday, November 11, 2019

I'd Love to Turn You On #243 - The Killers - Sam's Town (2006)

            When The Killers' debut album Hot Fuss came out in 2004 I begged and begged my dad to take me to see them at City Stages in Birmingham the next year. They played the entire album and I was hooked instantly; I became a forever fan and my poor dad had to stand there with a screaming teenage girl. I still wear the t-shirt I got at the show and am amazed it still fits me. I guess it’s just that Killers magic. When their second studio album Sam’s Town came out the year after that I instantly went out and bought the CD and later when I got my first turntable it was the first new record I bought with my own money. It was a departure from the synth and auto-tune featured heavily in Hot Fuss, while still being very much a Killers album at its core. It’s a love letter to Las Vegas - where the members either grew up or moved to when they were young, and where the band formed.
            I guess a little background on the band will make their love of Las Vegas and the Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall make a little more sense. Lead singer Brandon Flowers, drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and bassist Mark Stoermer grew up in Las Vegas while guitarist Dave Keuning moved there in his early 20’s. But all four of them met in the City of Sin under the bright lights and formed The Killers in 2001. As a child Stoermer could see the Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall sign from his bedroom window. Las Vegas gave them an edge that they couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The album was even recorded in Las Vegas. With Vegas in their hearts and minds they as a group decided to move away from the new wave Brit-pop sound of Hot Fuss and record an album that sounded more like where they came from.
            Sam’s Town kicks off with the title track, a larger than life rock anthem. It gives you the feeling of walking down the Las Vegas Strip at night soaking in all of the bright lights and big sounds. It comes from a place in Flowers' heart, because he grew up doing just that. Two of my favorite things about Sam’s Town are the “Enterlude” and “Exitlude” tracks bookending the album. You can imagine Flowers as a lounge singer in a casino, welcoming in patrons as the night begins and softly letting them know it’s time to go when the sun comes up. My other two favorites off Sam’s Town, “Uncle Johnny” and “Bones,” fill in the sex and drugs part of “sex, drugs and rock & roll” for the album. “Uncle Johnny” is raw and feels like a person strung out on cocaine while living it up in Las Vegas. “Bones” is a throwback to the synth-pop sound from Hot Fuss, but with a little more Mojave Desert dirt mixed in. Both tracks don’t hold anything back and that is what makes them stand out on this album.
The Killers didn’t hold anything back when making this album, and while most reviews of the album were not stellar, the album holds true to their Las Vegas roots and that desert sound. It isn’t flashy, it doesn’t try to copy their sound from Hot Fuss, and it stands alone in the pantheon of Killers albums. It’s raw, it’s dusty and it’s very Las Vegas. While Hot Fuss tends to get all the glory, Sam’s Town in my opinion is a truly Killers album. They made it the way they wanted, they recorded it where they wanted and to me it works, even if the rest of the world didn’t seem to think so.
P.S. Brandon Flowers' debut solo album Flamingo is also a beautiful heartfelt love letter to the city of Las Vegas and is well worth a listen.
- Anna Lathem

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