Review: The Killers – Hot Fuss
Harry Craig reviews rock album, Hot Fuss – made by one of the most popular rock bands of all time.
In June 2004, four young rockstars from the neon lights of Las Vegas were coming out of their cage and thanks to the stratospheric success of their debut album Hot Fuss, they are still doing just fine eighteen years later. This was an album that soundtracked Gen-Z’s childhoods and remains enduringly popular, as was visible when the band toured this summer.
The Killers formed when guitarist Dave Keuning and frontman Brandon Flowers met in 2001 (later to be joined by Ronnie Vannucci and Mark Stoermer), and Dave and Brandon wrote their first ever song together – Mr. Brightside. This became the band’s most iconic track, with a record 340 weeks on the UK charts since its release in 2003 and becoming a staple of every single British social gathering.
If the royal family were ever to be abolished, it’s fair to say the track would be a firm contender for a republican Britain’s national anthem. Its immense success remains an enigma, although its easy-to-belt lyrics and universal tale of heartbreak probably help.
The popularity of a Las Vegas rock band on the other side of the Atlantic seems bizarre at first. However, it stems from the fact that, after being rejected by American record labels, the Brits gave The Killers their first big break with Hot Fuss. The album won over indie label Lizard King Records, and their popularity in Britain, where Mr. Brightside took off, persuaded US label Island Records to take them on.
Flowers was clearly influenced by the British 80s rock bands that he grew up listening to, including The Smiths, The Cure and Depeche Mode. The heavy use of synths mixed with guitars, as well as Flowers’ vocals, provide a distinctly British sound, and it is no surprise that many still believe the band to be British.
The heavy use of synths mixed with guitars, as well as Flowers’ vocals, provide a distinctly British sound
The album’s first five tracks provide hit after hit, bursting into life with Jenny Was a Friend of Mine’s powerful bassline. The opening track is the final part of The Killers’ murder trilogy, alongside later track Midnight Show and B-side Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf – together, these tell the fictional story of the murder of a girl called Jenny. Flowers claimed in a 2009 interview that he was inspired to write songs about murder – an odd theme for a devout Mormon like him – by Morrissey.
The album’s profound themes do not end there. The album also takes on PTSD in All These Things That I’ve Done, undertones of sexuality in On Top and Andy, You’re A Star, and drug use in Believe Me Natalie. Not only are these surprising topics for a Mormon singer to tackle, but also for such a young band to take on, perhaps inspired by the band’s formative experiences in the “lion’s den” of Las Vegas.
The next four tracks after Jenny Was a Friend of Mine remain massive hits today, and it’s easy to see why. Somebody Told Me delivers infectious synthesisers and guitars, as does the more restrained, downbeat Smile Like You Mean It.
Arguably the album’s highlight is All These Things That I’ve Done, which espouses maturity beyond the band’s years. The iconic refrain of “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” still sends festival crowds wild, and the song follows a golden formula that the band have nailed throughout their career – a slower start building into an epic climax that goes bigger than you could ever have expected.
The second half of the album, although lacking the hit singles of the first half, is massively underrated. Midnight Show is infectious, with nothing more satisfying than screaming the lyric “drive faster”. Meanwhile, Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll (only released as a main track on the UK version) provides a little bit of silliness with its ironic take on indie culture.
The album ends on a slightly different note with dreamy ballad Everything Will Be Alright. It’s oddly fitting to end such an intense, synth- and guitar-driven rock album with a calmer, perhaps even reassuring note.
Hot Fuss is unlike anything else The Killers have released since, with their second album Sam’s Town seeing a pivot towards Americana and Springsteen that they haven’t turned back on. It remains an iconic cornerstone of 21st century rock music and deserves appreciation beyond Mr. Brightside and its other big hits.