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In the Studio: Killers Fight Back With "Stripped-Down" Third CD

August 12, 2008 8:45 AM ET

After four years of nonstop touring and recording, the Killers finally took some time off before beginning work on their third album — but frontman Brandon Flowers wasn't ready to relax. He wound up using the three months of downtime to write nearly 30 songs. "Everything is at stake on this album," Flowers says. "Everything. I live through these songs. People make such a big deal about the second album: 'Do or die.' But I feel like the pressure to produce something great will always be there. It's our job, after all."

The Killers' second release, 2006's concept album Sam's Town, was an overseas smash and sold 1.3 million copies in the U.S. — about half of their debut, 2004's Hot Fuss. But some critics pegged the album's stadium-rock sound as overblown. Flowers shrugs off those gripes — "Sam's Town was a giant success. That's a misunderstood truth" — but the Killers took a new approach on this album, which was produced by Madonna collaborator Stuart Price. "This record is stripped down in a lot of ways," says bassist Mark Stoermer. "Each instrument has its place, and things aren't clouding anything up. We're not trying to be bombastic. It's our most poppy record but also our most experimental."

The band debuted two new songs from the album, "Spaceman" and "Neon Tiger," at a surprise New York club show in late July. "Spaceman" is a tight, fast pop tune, with punky, guitar-heavy verses and a funky bridge with subject-appropriate spacey synth effects. "The spaceman says, 'Everybody look down,' " Flowers sings in the chorus. The midtempo "Neon Tiger" is more anthemic and synth-heavy, with Flowers singing, "Neon tiger, there's a price on your head/Never let them touch you." Other songs include "Vibration" (working title), which Stoermer describes as "a fun dance track," and "Goodnight, Travel Well," a seven-minute experimental epic.

As Flowers tells it, criticism of the band has only made it stronger. "We learned that you can't please everyone," Flowers says. "But we've got faith in what we do, faith in our fans and faith in the soon-to-be-converted."

Related Stories:
Review: Sam's Town
Review: Hot Fuss

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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