The Killers


The Killers
Torey Mundkowsky

Considering that Brandon Flowers is a name-dropping disciple of Bono and Morrissey, it's a wonder the Killers frontman didn't reduce his stage name to a mono-moniker. But he and his Las Vegas-based bandmates have successfully emulated the sort of rising-action anthems that made U2 and the Smiths famous, albeit with more keyboards and fewer literary references.

All the band members—including singer-keyboardist Flowers, guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr.—were working odd jobs and playing in various local bands in Las Vegas when the line-up finalized in 2002; an early track, the jealous-lover lament "Mr. Brightside," helped the Killers land a deal with Island Records.

The resulting debut, Hot Fuss (Number Seven,2004), proved that the Killers were not only first-rate second-wavers — song like "On Top" and "Somebody Told Me" (#51, 2004) were awash in synths — but also that the increasingly ailing major-label environment could still nurture a multi-platinum rock band. Fuss sold three million copies in the United States, and yielded five singles: "Somebody Told Me," "Mr. Brightside," "All These Things I've Done" and "Smile Like You Mean It."

While touring behind the album, the Killers developed a reputation for slightly unearned grandiosity, perhaps best exemplified by the group's decision to hire a gospel choir for its 2004 set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The band's infamy was increased via a string of mildly controversial interviews, in which Flowers crowed to the lap-it-up rock press — which had been starved for memorable lead singer in the post-grunge era — about the band's superiority, picking fights with acts like Fall Out Boy and the Bravery.

Such bravado didn't take away from the late-night joys of Hot Fuss, but it did set the group up for a backlash, one they egged on even further with the release of its follow-up album, Sam's Town (Number Two, 2006). The lead-off single, "When You Were Young" reached Number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, though successive releases — "Bones" (Number 21 Modern Rock, 2006), "Read My Mind" (Number 62, 2007), and "For Reasons Unknown" — proved less captivating, and Town sold only one-third the amount of copies as its predecessor in the United States, although it nearly matched Hot Fuss worldwide. A B-sides collection, Sawdust (Number 12) followed in 2007. The band's third album of originals, Day & Age, was set for a late 2008 release.

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