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The Killers 

Sam's Town (Island)

Killers vocalist Brandon Flowers makes it very clear that he wants to be Bruce Springsteen on Sam's Town, judging by the Boss-like quivers and heavy sentiments ("Can we climb this mountain? I don't know") decorating the over-the-top single "When You Were Young." While it's admirable that the members of this Vegas quartet want to be taken seriously as musicians and lyricists on their second album, nobody ever asked them to be our moral compass. The best tracks on their 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, were the zippy new-wave beatfests and glitzy dancefloor fluff. When the band attempts to be deep, the result tends to come across as forced grandeur, the type of ridiculous prose penned by someone who takes himself way too seriously. Lyrics like "Don't you wanna feel my bones on your bones?" are about as sexy as a root canal, while another passage -- "So I ran with the devil/Left a trail of excuses/Like a stone on the water/The elements decide my fate" -- sounds like Bono 101.

Paradoxically, these same egocentric delusions redeem Sam's Town -- and in fact make it musically far superior to (and more consistent than) Hot Fuss in almost every way. Strong melodies and memorable hooks are the rule, rather than the exception (highlighted by the quasi-psychedelic fuzz-drone of "Uncle Jonny"), while keyboards are integrated far better (check 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 -- but you wouldn't want to live there.

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