Flashback Friday: The Killers, Hot Fuss

I had always been obsessed with music. Just not always good music.

After finishing athletics training as a young, slightly-too-spritely kid, I would stare daggers at my father who would begin a lengthy conversation with my coach. I would sigh, tug on his shirt incessantly and wriggle uncomfortably, eventually grabbing the car keys off my dad and jumping into the car. After all, there weren’t many things more important in the day than discovering who had topped the charts that week on the radio.

But amongst this saturation of frankly pretty terrible pop music, The Killers weaved their way into my music subconscious – and one chorus in particular.

“Somebody told me you had a boyfriend, who looked like a girlfriend, that I had in February of last year”.

As a ten year old, these lyrics were infinitely amusing. What I didn’t realise was that this song would have as much relevance in my life when I first heard it as a ten year old, as it would at the end of year disco in year 6, as it would at a dingy club in Kings Cross as a freshly minted adult. Regardless of where and when I heard it, it’s unbridled energy never fails to rouse me.

Yet as was the nature of Hot Fuss, the album offered far more than an isolated hit. Critics of the album argue that it is dangerously top-heavy. But with some of the most iconic pop hits of the decade back ending each other in the first four songs (Mr Brightside, Smile Like You Mean It, Somebody Told Me), the other half is naturally going to suffer. To keep up this level of retro synth rock to this standard would have be nigh impossible.

These early songs undoubtedly incorporate the best of The Killers. The searching vocals of Brandon Flowers in the murder epic Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine are honest and painful in equal doses. Mr Brightside blasted onto the radio waves with a swell of synth and deliciously addictive guitar riffs. Yet the chorus is deceivingly simple – using only a few notes to construct something purely compelling. Meanwhile, Smile Like You Mean It is delightfully nostalgic and melancholy with lyrics like “and someone will drive her around down the same streets that I did.”

Granted, the album somewhat splutters and limps its way to the end – imploding from the highs of candied hooks and monstrous yet balanced sounds to an over-produced and slightly lopsided mess.

While the album seems like a festival of colour and splendour, in actuality it was curated with earnest deliberation and a slap of cocky bravado. Inspired by the wave of revivalist 1980’s bands, The Killers unashamedly desired to bring their brand of dance infused post-punk indie rock from the fringes of music to the forefront of the masses. At times, this desire was a little too transparent. With British affections and a song called named Glamourous Indie Rock and Roll, I’m still unsure whether the irony is quite obvious enough. I can almost hear the groan of pure indie rock fans from all the way here in 2015, as a band that so obviously aimed for mainstream success still clung onto their ‘indie cred’. But as a young kid screaming along to Somebody Told Me, I frankly couldn’t have cared less.

While Hot Fuss was half of one of the greatest albums of the decade, it is still a tribute to The Killers for creating a string of songs that are just as recognisable to the masses now, as they were more than ten years ago. It’s a shame that this imperfect album was not a springboard for much bigger and better things. If anything, it would predict a career carved from the same path – one of promise that scored legions of fans, but also of imbalance. Perhaps more than any other band in recent times, The Killers are plagued by the ridiculous standard of their early work. While it is not uncommon for fans to lament the inability of bands to scale their previous heights of their debut album, very few can say they are plagued by the reputation of their first four songs.

It is this reason why I will always love Hot Fuss; for bringing to life some of the most important songs of my own, and many others’ childhoods. By riding their wave of synth-heavy indie rock to the mainstream, I was introduced to what music could be beyond the mass produced radio hits. So perhaps Hot Fuss or in fact any of The Killers albums isn’t perfect, but for the little kid sitting in my dad’s car after athletics training, none of that really mattered.