Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is ‘Hot Fuss’ by The Killers.
When it comes to hitting milestones, it’s safe to say that as of late, The Killers have been struggling.
However, on June 7, their debut, ‘Hot Fuss’ turned ten years old. As North Korea banned the use of mobile phones and George Bush gave Pope John Paul II the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Brandon Flowers was asking you to smile like you meant it.
On paper, ‘Hot Fuss’ reads as though it’s all style and no substance – influences ranging from Bowie to U2, song titles including Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll, (hipster forefathers, perhaps?) and even a murder mystery trilogy. Having an Adonis-esque singer didn’t help their case either.
Recorded with Jeff Saltzman in Berkeley, California (and guitarist Dave Keuning’s apartment), many of the tracks were originally recorded as demos, which the band decided to keep for their spontaneity. Smile Like You Mean It was reportedly written in just eight minutes.
Despite this rawness (or perhaps because of it), ‘Hot Fuss’ propelled them into a world of super stardom. The lyrics aren’t out-of-the-way intricate or difficult to understand – case in point, song of the decade Mr. Brightside. Who can’t relate to Flowers’ as he bitterly rips apart his cheating ex?
Andy You’re A Star is another that resonates. Flowers’ fixation and apparent jealousy of his former high-achieving schoolmate is examined. “Andy you’re a star, in nobody’s eyes but mine.”
The band managed to contrast the simplicity of the lyrics with the outlandish nature of the music. The Killers set out to write anthems against the backdrop of the bright lights of Vegas.
Glamorous Indie Rock ‘N’ Roll features a key change so effortless, Westlife would be envious. The Sweet Inspirations – a choir that sang with Jimi Hendrix, Elvis and Dusty Springsteen – appear on All These Things That I Have Done and Andy You’re A Star. Relentless percussion is the focal point of tracks Believe Me Natalie and Somebody Told Me.
And then there’s the videos – Somebody Told Me pays homage to New Order, where the band got their name. Mr. Brightside remains one of the most iconic videos of all time (Brandon Flowers and Eric Roberts caught in a love triangle with a burlesque star? No wonder).
‘Hot Fuss’ contains two parts of the so-called Murder Trilogy – Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine and Midnight Show, (the third features on compilation ‘Sawdust’, titled Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf). Inspired by Morrissey and the Robert Chambers murder trial, Jenny … features a strong bassline and an infectious melody. The synthesisers in Midnight Show mimic sirens as Flowers took his “baby’s breath away beneath the chandeliers stars and atmosphere, and watched her disappear.”
The truth is, ‘Hot Fuss’ is all style – lashings of it. That’s what makes it great ten years later. ‘Hot Fuss’ is one of the ballsiest debut albums of the last decade. The Killers didn’t think they were a great band: they knew they were a great band. ‘Hot Fuss’ exudes the typical confidence that comes with youth and starting out in music, with just enough edge to assure that the best was yet to come.