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The Killers’ heartfelt ‘Pressure Machine’ succumbs to tiresome small-town tropes

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AUGUST 18, 2021

Grade: 2.0/5.0

After the release of their debut album Hot Fuss in June 2004, The Killers stamped their unique stylings onto the face of alternative music for years to come. Producing tracks that mix pop songwriting with an idiosyncratic point of view and Brandon Flowers’ distinctive vocals, The Killers were almost bound to find creative success. 

With hit songs such as “Mr. Brightside,” “Read My Mind,” “When You Were Young” and “Somebody Told Me,” it’s near-undeniable that the band’s sound defined the latter half of the 2000s. Flash forward nearly two decades after the release of the band’s debut album and one can still find its influences residing within the sound of artists ranging from Lana Del Rey and Brendon Urie to Imagine Dragons, Arctic Monkeys and beyond.

On its 2021 album Pressure Machine, however, the band seems to lack the creative and dynamic range that made its earlier works so addictive. With the entirety of the track list revolving around Flowers’ childhood town — Nephi, Utah — the songs on the album are undoubtedly personal and contain truly engaging lyricism, yet they all seem to blend together in a sort of nostalgia-milking mush. Paired with practically interchangeable songs, Flowers’ vocals leave a lot to be desired. Almost everything here lacks the catchy, intricate qualities that make The Killers’ hits hits in the first place.

The album opens with an interview with a resident of Nephi. An unnamed woman states that she’s been living in the town for 26 years — her entire life — and has rarely left. It’s an interesting concept at first until one realizes that almost every track on the album begins with interviews of residents throughout the town. The interviews lose their charm quickly and gradually come off as increasingly lazy substitutions for actual storytelling. Because of these long-winded intros, the tracks feel as though they are in dire need of edits and become easy to lose interest in (especially after a full 55-minute playthrough of the album).

On “Quiet Town,” incredible lyrics such as “When we first heard opioid stories, they were always whispering tones/ Now banners of sorrow mark the front steps of childhood homes” are dragged down by run-of-the-mill melodies and an unremarkable instrumental. Along with such musical letdowns are the repetitive stories of Flowers’ hometown. While most of the tracks are undeniably heartfelt and well written, they end up drowned out by the increasingly homogenous feeling, full of the tiresome tropes of small-town living.

Not even a Phoebe Bridgers feature could truly save the album from its mundaneness. On “Runaway Horses,” Bridgers’ classic vocals palpably complement Flowers’, yet another boring melody sweeps most of the song’s potential away. The finger-picked acoustic guitar is pleasant to listen to and Flowers’ lyricism is impressive as per usual, making the song one of the album’s highlights, which sadly doesn’t say much.

The final song on the album titled “The Getting By” is a perfect representation of Pressure Machine as a whole. Beginning and ending with cliche interviews about small-town life, the song has a runtime of more than five minutes and practically twiddles its thumbs waiting for its ending. Lacking almost any dynamic variation, it begins to feel like a task to listen to the song in its entirety, a running trend throughout the album.

Pressure Machine shines in its lyricism, but that is exactly where such light ends. Filled to the brim with disappointing melodic structure and repetitive storytelling, it seems as though the album’s runtime could have been cut in half. Though not necessarily a nail in the coffin of The Killers’ musical career, the album is most definitely not a highlight of it either. The album’s lows far outweigh its highs and, unless one is a die-hard Killers fan, is certainly not worth the listen.

Contact Ian Fredrickson at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 18, 2021


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