The Killers trade glitz and glamour for quiet folklore
For their second record in less than a year, The Killers take a similar path to megastar Taylor Swift – a path that may not have been explored had it not been for a pandemic-induced touring hiatus. It would be too easy to compare this record to Springsteen’s oft-hailed, minimalistic Nebraska, but honestly, there’s nothing more fitting.
Pressure Machine is a portrait of small town America, one The Boss himself would be proud of. The stories Brandon Flowers and co. tell on their seventh record are inspired by ones from Flowers’ own childhood and adolescence spent in rural Utah. It’s the polar opposite of the glitz and glamour of fabulous Las Vegas and yet, at this point in their career, it suits them well.
To further cement the down-to-earth realism the record’s songs are built in, Pressure Machine is interspersed with actual quotes from residents of Flowers’ hometown, collected from archives over the years. They articulate fragments of stories about train accidents, opioid addiction, and other uplifting topics. Then, naturally lead into songs about the same.
‘In The Car Outside’ might be the closest thing to The Killers we’ve come to know. Its pulsing beat and electronic leads may seem like an outlier on an otherwise Americana-heavy record, but it hits at just the right time, following ‘Runaway Horses’, their beautiful, understated collaboration with the one and only Phoebe Bridgers. Elsewhere, ‘Desperate Things’ contains the most Springsteeny melody on the whole record. Lyrics like ‘I’ve never had much patience for guys that hit…’ make it a standout, albeit a quiet one.
Pressure Machine is Sam’s Town all grown up. It’s got its driver’s license and is cruising down a middle-American highway in a red Cadillac, top down, hair blowin’ in the wind as it quietly reflects on memories from a former life. At this point, Sam’s Town would be embarrassed to recall the self-important hype that was built up when it was first conceived. Now, it has more interest in dusty boots and worn acoustic guitars than fireworks and neon signs. We all must grow up sometimes – even the record that was going to “keep rock ‘n’ roll afloat”.
I can’t imagine The Killers will continue down this path. But that’s okay. A record like this from a band like them shouldn’t exist more than once. It’s a welcome addition to their catalog – one that will be looked upon for years to come as one of their best. And while I’m glad the pandemic gifted us such a stunning listen, I think we’d all agree we hope it never happens again.
Quiet reflections Of rural America: A beautiful thing
Pressure Machine is now streaming on Spotify, and everywhere else you consume music.