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The Killers 

Sam's Town (Island)

On Sam's Town, Killers vocalist Brandon Flowers makes it very clear that he wants to be Bruce Springsteen; just listen to the Boss-esque quivers and gravitas-filled sentiments ("Can we climb this mountain? I don't know") in the album's over-the-top single, "When You Were Young." But while it's admirable that the Killers want to be taken seriously as musicians and lyricists on their sophomore album, who ever said we wanted them to be our moral compass? The best tracks on the band's 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, were the zippy new-wave beatfests and glitzy dancefloor fluff that sounded great on the heels of a Duran Duran hit. But when Flowers attempts to be deep, it tends to come across as forced grandeur, the type of ridiculous prose penned by someone who takes himself way too seriously. Town lyrics such as "Don't you wanna feel my bones on your bones?" are about as sexy as a root canal, while lines like "So I ran with the devil/Left a trail of excuses/Like a stone on the water/The elements decide my fate" are cribbed straight from Bono 101. (And let's not even mention the unfortunate abundance of Ye Olde Americana phrases throughout the disc.)

Paradoxically, however, these megalomaniacal delusions redeem Town — and, in fact, make it musically superior to (and more consistent than) Fuss in almost every way. Strong melodies and memorable hooks are the rule rather than the exception (highlighted by the quasi-psychedelic fuzz-drone "Uncle Jonny"), while keyboards are integrated far more effectively (check out the airy synths sneaking in under U2-like ribbon riffs on the title track), making the Killers seem less new-wave and more, well, muscular. Add in flashes of that ol' "We can do anything together, babe!" charm ("But I know that I can make it/As long as somebody takes me home"), and Sam's Town is a place well worth visiting — if only for a brief vacation.

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