The first half, at least, sounds like a readymade greatest-hits record
June 7, 2024 10:59 AM   Subscribe

The Killers' debut album Hot Fuss turns 20 today. Tom Breihan of Stereogum reexamines the legacy of the little album made by outsiders to the NYC glamorous indie rock & roll scene and how it took over the world (or the UK, at least). "A fascinating case study of how hard those hipster sounds could go when they were adapted by people with no interest in hipness." "I wanted to be too cool for the Killers. I was not. You probably weren’t, either." Also: "Hot Fuss Turns 10" by Ultragrrrl provides an on-the-ground eyewitness account of the same. And Tom's account of the worst-conceived alt-rock festival of 2005.
posted by Apocryphon (17 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Hot Fuss fuckin rules even 20 years later.

The Killers have firmly entered Dad Rock territory--along with The National, my beloved Sad Dad band--and honestly, each album fron them is pretty banging in its own right. Their sound definitely evolved after Hot Fuss (Sam's Town is better, fight me) and continues to do so. Their sound feels more Springsteen than the glam indie Hot Fuss was.

Yes yes, Brandon Flowers is a Mormon, we know. But that Mormon makes dope music.
posted by Kitteh at 11:02 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]

I still sing bars from "Everything Will Be Alright" and "Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll" all the time. It is such a well-made album.

Sam's Town is better, fight me

Nah, it's also a great album! "Why Do I Keep Counting?" haunts me still.
posted by curious nu at 11:16 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]

The Killers will be able to keep playing arenas and festivals for as long as they want, and Hot Fuss and “Mr. Brightside” will be the primary reasons that they’re still able to pack them in. Hipster credibility is evanescent; it’s not the kind of thing that anyone worries about two decades later. But the white “Back That Azz Up”? That’s forever.

God, this is so fucking true. Hipster credibility is fickle and fleeting, but a band can obtain what amounts to goddamn immortality with a perfectly-timed banger like "Mr. Brightside." Like, I don't know about everyone else, but I don't remember anything but a couple bars of a Strokes song; I can still sing along to every single line of "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside."

Youtuber 12tone does a super interesting musical deep-dive into Mr. Brightside that's worth a watch.
posted by yasaman at 11:56 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]

Enjoy their tunes. One of the most underwhelming concerts I've ever been to in my life, however. Just inert.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 12:23 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

At the height of "Mr. Brightside's" popularity, my ex and I made our one drive from her parents' place in Virginia back to New York City and basically any time we hit a new broadcast area the song would be on the radio. I think we probably listened to it at least 30 times on that drive back.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:56 PM on June 7

I loved Across the Narrows: dozens of amazing bands like Belle & Sebastian, The Killers, Polyphonic Spree, The Raveonettes! And zero crowds!

But such baffling decision from the organizers. Half the bands were at one venue, half at another, so you can see The Pixies or The Killers, but not both. Oasis or Beck. Rilo Kiley or Tegan and Sara. And far enough apart you couldn't possibly get from one to the other without missing most of the day. They might as well have been in different states. WHY?!?
posted by justkevin at 1:05 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

I've been a killers fan forever, and I had hot fuss on my first MP3 player when they let you have 20 songs total. I learned today that it's hot fuss and not hot fuzz.
posted by Braeburn at 1:05 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

Pretty much like the writer said, absolute bangers in an era overwhelmed with coolness and boredom. Went to too many shows in that era, saw all those bands, and I can say, with some kind of authority, that those bands were all just the most boring acts I have ever seen. I didn't see The Killers until much, much later (I mean, they never really have that phase of being a purely accessibly small-venue try-hard national touring band), but when I did they were pretty electric.

There's probably a 3,000 word essay out there, or there should be, about how the last two rock bands that were allowed to go absolutely huge are both LDS bands from Las Vegas (the other of course being Imagine Dragons). Wild that they just haven't let bands get big and get major radio play since the mid-late 2000s. Just looked through the local popular rock station's playlist and it's all just bands from the 90s with sprinkles of Killers and Imagine Dragons. Luckily I have the internet and can listen to KEXP and Apple Music to discover new bands that are just as, ahem, killer.

Of course, now that there's no monoculture, I'm not sure bands will ever get that big again. Is Fontaines DC actually as big as they seem? Anybody hear that new SPRINTS record? Feel like Cheekface should be doing 1998 Cake numbers.

But anyway, yeah, that Killers record came straight out the gate knowing it wanted to be huge and it was huge. Like some pop rock scientists just got together and made the perfect riffs and chord progressions and strut and hey some songs about jealousy? We mention having a smoke—how transgressive!
posted by General Malaise at 1:08 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

(that said, the second half of the album is eminently forgettable)
posted by General Malaise at 1:31 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Enjoy their tunes. One of the most underwhelming concerts I've ever been to in my life, however. Just inert.

Yeah, we were initial fans of "Somebody Told Me" (still a great tune) but walked out in the middle of their set when we saw them in 2004.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:47 PM on June 7

I'm not sure bands will ever get that big again.

Middle 8: Something weird is happening in post-punk

(It's coming back)

I think there's been other big rock acts besides Imagine Dragons in the last ten years. It's just they tend to be like, Twenty One Pilots.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:03 PM on June 7

But then, plenty of Killers lyrics took on different meanings over time. Consider: “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier.” I thought that line was so fucking stupid the first hundred times I heard it. Even then, though, I had to marvel. The Killers liked that line enough to repeat it a bunch of times, with a full gospel choir behind them, in the context of a majestic hands-in-the-air stadium-rock banger. Once again, my resistance crumbled. By 2006, a scarred-up Justin Timberlake was lip-syncing that line in Richard Kelly’s baffling Donnie Darko follow-up Southland Tales, and it started to feel like it might even be meaningful.

PBS aired a documentary series called Carrier that followed the deployment of the USS Nimitz in 2005. The soundtrack were songs the young, sleep deprived enlisted crew were into. That part of "All These Things I've Done" was played more than once. I don't know, maybe a lot of it was because we were in the early years of two wars, but as corny as those lyrics are, they sure did resonate with a ton of people.
posted by riruro at 8:15 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

Live: I saw them in a field in Scotland in 2005 and I have no recollection of flaws, but their Glastonbury performances in the late 2010’s had Flowers missing notes he used to reach.

The record: Hot Fuss didn't arrive in my CD collection until late 2006 or even 2007 when I saw it cheap in a supermarket, it became a staple when working and in the car travelling. Happy it's "the other British national anthem."
posted by k3ninho at 4:24 AM on June 8

I'm not sure bands will ever get that big again.

I think there have been enough 'rock' bands that have hit the pop charts in recent years - Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Foo Fighters are basically unstoppable. The Kings of Leon hit #4 on the pop charts in this time, Nickelback, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Post Malone, etc. IMO the pop chart - or what counts as 'pop' for the charts is extremely narrowing - so in the past a lot of rock bands might have snuck through - and the number of plays required to hit #1 on the pop charts is also decreasing. So I think both of those factors are influencing things far more than the fall of rock bands. I'm also not saying I even like all those bands - but they all do count as 'rock'.

I personally think The Killers are fine - I've always liked dance pop rock more than the undanceable stuff, so I've just seen them as an extension of like INXS and Duran Duran, New Order, etc and the dance rock bands of the early 00s that should have been big, like Franz Ferdinand and the French Kicks. I'll take that stuff over another Foo Fighters track that sounds exactly like the other ones, and The RHCP are dance funk which I theoretically should like, but somehow can't stand.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:32 AM on June 8

I also think the heel turn they did for their second album and beyond - where the singles were all lyrics focused - I know they don't like the comparisons with Bruce Springsteen, but that's who they remind me of, while also becoming less danceable, though they still had plenty of 'dance rock' tracks- is kind of impressive.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:35 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]

where the singles were all lyrics focused
I think this is where the Killers fall apart for me. Their music is fine, I don’t begrudge their popularity, but their lyrics vary between mediocre and cringe. If they focused more on the sound and production, I could forgive their cludgy lyrics, but because Brandon Flowers’ voice is so prominent in the mix, that’s all I can hear.

I don’t dislike the band and I’m not mad at their fans, but they would be more interesting (to me) if they were less lyrics focused. YMMV, of course.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:55 PM on June 8

But.... Are we human or are we dancer???
posted by Jacen at 9:22 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]

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