Trying To Get To You

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On The Killers, Limits and Bruce

The new Killers record, Sam’s Town, has gotten mostly harsh reviews from U.S. critics. Personally, I like the single, and don’t think much of the rest of the record. Lead singer Brandon Flowers had promised that “Sam’s Town” would be the greatest album of the past 20 years, which it isn’t. But Flowers made some comments on MTV.com last week that I found interesting. He said, "The sky used to be the limit, and it's not anymore. It's about 200 feet, and beyond that people think you're being comical. Rock and roll used to be about not having limits, not having your box, and that's disappeared somewhere along the way. We're trying to bring it back."

I don’t think the Killers are a band with enough depth or skill to “bring it back,” but I think his larger point is all too true. In the post-punk universe that all “credible” rock exists under, ambition is a dirty word that must be kept to oneself. Post-punk and indie-rock attitude require a sort of false modesty, a mask that hides any sort of overt desire to reach a large audience. Of course, in their secret heart, most (indie) rock artists would love for their music to reach a broad audience (and yes, they’d love the money and adulation that go with having a big audience) – but admitting it is verboten. That’s the lie that been at the heart of the rock game since the post-punk philosophy took over rock’s vanguard. And that inauthenticity that has resulted in rock has getting smaller and smaller – the music has gotten smaller and the audience for it has gotten smaller.

Now, regarding the Springsteen influence of Sam’s Town. What the Killers do wrong is that instead of internalizing Springsteen’s music and then bringing a new depth and passion to their own, they’re taking the trappings of Born To Run era Bruce (the melodrama, the mythology, the glockenspiel) on without adding enough depth. My advice to artists regarding Bruce is this: If you’re inspired by Bruce, internalize that passion and live the commitment that’s present in the best of Springsteen’s music. Taking the surface of Bruce’s music on will result in music that’s not a whole lot better than Bon Jovi. Springsteen is an artist whose influence is usually best when it’s felt, and not heard. That’s probably why the most influential Springsteen record is (and will forever be) Nebraska.

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