CD: The Killers - Wonderful, Wonderful The Vegas quartet's fifth album - is it destined to be th

From The Arts Desk

The last song on The Killers' new record is called "Have All the Songs Been Written?". The words refer to Brandon Flowers' writers' block during the album's recording. Apparently, he tried everything to get out of the slump, including asking Bono for advice. The U2 singer had no answers but their meeting started a process that gradually led to Flowers realising what he really needed to do: to write about his own life.

This self-reflective approach has resulted in a record which starts out full of ambitions but ultimately ends up sounding low-key compared to their earlier work. The trademark sweeping choruses have largely been retired and in their place, we find another series of Eighties influences including U2, Dire Straits, and on "The Man" Bowie in full disco mode. The latter is a send-up of rock stardom, which also seems aimed at the band's own musical excesses on Battle Born.

And therein lies the rub. Because no matter what anyone says about Killers' songs, the ones people enjoy the most are the huge epics. On Wonderful, Wonderful that song is "Tyson vs Douglas", a cinematic description of the eight-year-old Flowers watching the great defeat on TV. It's the kind of song that gives you goosebumps. That's not to say the band's other styles are no good – but they're certainly not as good. The most affecting here are "Rut" and "Some Kind of Love", a pair of tender contemplations about Flowers' wife's depression. One also can't help noticing how much their synth-heavy soundscapes are reminiscent of Flowers' solo efforts.

It makes you wonder a little about The Killers' future. Why did guitarist Dave Keuning play so little on the album? And why have he and bassist Mark Stoermer announced they don't want to tour anymore? Most worrying of all is the news that Flowers is going to move out of Vegas to a town near Salt Lake City. The Killers could surely survive losing band members. It's harder to imagine them without Sin City.

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