The Killers: Sam's Town

By Russell Baillie

Herald rating: * * * * *

Well knock on my door and call me a convert. Rock's most famous Mormon, Brandon Flowers, and his fellow Anglophile Las Vegans have delivered a second album that has it all over the 2004 breakthrough debut Hot Fuss.

Didn't fancy the first one much myself. It was too self-conscious and dependent on its grab-bag of 80s influences.

It had some obvious hits in Somebody Told Me and disco-rocker Mr Brightside but on the whole too much filler.

And it was hard to know from his delivery whether Flowers's gift for lyrical melodrama was a gift or just an act.

Here though, the arranged marriage between the band's American stadium rock ambitions and ye old Brit synthrock is a much happier union.

And playing best man seems to be - of all people - Bruce Springsteen with his classic epic Born to Run heavily referenced in first single When You Were Young, The River Is Wild and in rest of the set's many songs about hitting the backroads and escaping a stifling hometown.

That's not to say The Killers have thrown out the synthesisers and beats seemingly beamed in from the first Live Aid era.

They're there, helping make the likes of Read My Mind or Bling (Confessions of a King) come on like Simple Minds-U2 tag team. Or when Flowers is seemingly channelling Freddie Mercury on the late-arriving Why Do I Keep Counting, where there's more than enough of them to help the stacked-harmony chorus achieve the full Radio Ga-Ga. Flowers shows he can pulls off a pretty mean Bowie too on the funk-rock bonus track Where the White Boys Dance.

But Sam's Town still knows where the six-string volume knobs are, care of the muscular production of Flood and Alan Moulder (both probably engaged for their U2 credits, as was cover photographer Anton Corbijn) who seem to locate a hitherto unrealised guitar power in the likes of droney drugs anthem Uncle Jonny and elsewhere. Certainly, it first comes on sounding curiously bombastic and time-warped. As if, say, Weezer woke up one morning and decided those Bon Jovi guys actually had a point after all. But in that frisson of blockbuster rock tradition and outsider strangeness is where the Killers' second album achieves greatness.

Named after a an old Vegas casino, Sam's Town is a winning hand. And you can bet that by the time they're here for the Big Day Out they'll be the biggest band in America.

Label: Island

* The Killers play Big Day Out '07 on the Blue Stage

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