BOTTOM LINE Raiding ’80s pop styles with uneven results.
Warning signs flash all over the new Killers album “Wonderful, Wonderful” (Island).
There’s the news that guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer will no longer tour regularly with the Las Vegas quartet. There’s the “difficult” title track, which combines a dirge with worries about being a “motherless child.” And a song called “Rut” about being stuck in one, with a whole bridge of Brandon Flowers singing, “I’ll climb and I’ll climb” over and over again.
Come on, Mr. Brightside, it’s looking bleak.
Then, here comes “The Man.”
Easily one of the best rock singles of the year, “The Man” crystallizes everything Arcade Fire was going for on its last album in one shining Bowiesque moment with a healthy dose of Prince-ly funk. The macho bravado of the lyrics suggests overcompensation, which the stunning video confirms, making the whole package one unstoppable hoot. “I got gas in the tank, I got money in the bank,” Flowers sings with affected swagger. “I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man.”
It’s so good, it’s almost enough to overlook the problems all around it, especially when paired with the quirky “Run for Cover,” which bounces from a Foo Fighters opening to talk of boxing champ Sonny Liston, and “Tyson vs Douglas,” which sounds like the return of The Cars.
But at a certain point, it’s just not enough. The ballads here — including the sleepy “Some Kind of Love” and the over-the-top “Have All the Songs Been Written?” — are so taxing. And on “Out of My Mind,” where Flowers name-drops Springsteen and McCartney, it becomes clear that Carly Rae Jepsen and her collaborators have locked down this particular style of retro-pop in ways that The Killers can’t even dream of matching.
“Wonderful, Wonderful” shows flashes of the greatness that made The Killers arena-fillers for more than a decade, but it also feels like their rut is getting deeper.