I think I get it now, this whole ’80s revival thing.
Because, really — what incentive do I have to listen to a band that sounds like Duran Duran when I can, well, listen to Duran Duran?
Bands such as Interpol, Longwave and the Stills may be reviving the sonic atmosphere of two decades previous, but I seldom get the sense these bands are adding anything to it.
(At least a band like Number Girl, while obviously influenced by the Pixies and Sonic Youth, sound very much like Number Girl.)
The first time I played the Killers’ Hot Fuss, it was the same reaction — it’s nice that they’ve got disco beats and shiny guitars, but man, that’s been done before.
It wasn’t until half-way through the second listen that it became obvious. These guys would probably kick much ass live.
And that was the epiphany.
What separates the Killers from all the other bands apeing the Smiths and Joy Division — these guys have managed to recapture the energy of those early bands.
Beneath the antiquated synthesizer effects, bassist Mark Stoermer’s hero worship of John Taylor and Peter Hook and Brandon Flowers’ faux-British singing accent, there’s a chemistry.
It’s the same chemistry that gave U2 its longevity and spurred the original line-up of Duran Duran to cash in on the nostalgia market. And it’s a chemistry that comes through each song, in addition to or in spite of the slick production.
“Mr. Brightside” isn’t just a rock song with a good dance beat — it’s a ballbuster of a performance. “Somebody Told Me” updates Blur’s own homage to the ’80s, “Girls & Boys”, with twice the energy and none of the irony.
“Midnight Show” is the most refreshing use of Chic in a rock song in, well, 20 years, while “Smile Like You Mean It” has one of those choruses that would feel communal during a concert.
The UK pressing of Hot Fuss does the US version one better with the inclusion of “Glamorous Indie Rock ‘n’ Roll”. It’s placed at a moment on the album that needed a big, suspenseful break.
Even without the energy, the songs on Hot Fuss are painstaking recreations of ’80s post-punk. The sound quality is certainly a lot more up-front, but the near-orchestral attention to detail is admirable.
And yeah — they’ve got good melodies and good choruses.
I’m even humming “Believe Me Natalie”, and that song doesn’t have the same level of hooks as “Andy, You’re a Star” or “All These Things That I’ve Done”.
So, thank you, Killers. I know what to look for the next time some band decides they want to sound like New Order.
And if they don’t get it, I’ll just go and listen to some New Order.