Album Review: The Killers – Pressure Machine (Island)

This latest from The Killers comes quickly on the back of last year’s Imploding The Mirage, but it definitely doesn’t sound rushed.

In fact, this may be the “band’s” most thoughtful record yet.

I put the word “band” in quotation marks as this collection of songs feels like a very personal diary, one written by front man Brandon Flowers.

Also, the band itself has been in a state of flux over the past few years with guitarist Dave Keuning and bass player Mark Stoermer on “hiatus”. Keuning seems to be back in the fold…co-writing a couple of tunes and playing some guitar, while Stoermer’s status remains unclear. Stalwart drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr is present as always.  It is he who was quoted as describing Pressure Machine, not as a “concept album” but one with “focus”.

That focus is on Brandon Flowers’ small town upbringing, specifically in Nephi, Utah.

“I was born right here in Zion, God’s own” is the opening line of the albums first track, West Hills. And from there, Flowers reaches back in times, recalling events, people and places that still stay with him years later.

These stories involve drugs, guns, love, lust, depression, domestic abuse and disillusionment…very Springsteen via Zevon.

While many fans associate The Killers with stadium anthems such as Somebody Told Me and Mr Brightside, this is a horse of a different colour.

In fact horses (and trains) are used as metaphors throughout these 11 songs, all written by Brandon along with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado.

We go briefly into classic Killers territory with In The Car Outside…one of two co-written with Keuning…it has a pulsing beat, some killer guitar and rocks along nicely.

But more representative is the track that precedes it.

Runaway Horses is a moody ballad about a “small town girl…crazy about The Bends” Phoebe Bridgers sings harmony  and it is just beautiful. Flowers wrote this alone and he touches on dashed dreams, disillusionment and what could have been. If you love The River, you’ll love this.

This is a mature, thoughtful collection of songs…very American, yet universal. While it may not make you dance, it will make you think, and feel.

Marty Duda