To the eager and uninitiated listener, the greatest hits album can be the key to a world of back catalogue discovery and future musical obsession. However, for many of us they remain shallow testaments to long-form creative achievement which remove whimsy, exorcise context and rewrites the past with nothing but glories.
Generally the arrival of a best of heralds one of two things:
1. Christmas is rapidly approaching and the band/label want to cash-in.
2. An artist is about to take an 'indefinite break' and the band/label want to cash-in.
Depending on what you've read, it's hard to say for certain whether the release of The Killers' Direct Hits is one or both of these things. However, coming off the back of their most banal work to date (last year's Battle Born) it might be safe to assume that seasonality is not the only thing on the Las Vegas quartet's minds.
The compilation itself encompasses 15 tracks that chart the band's journey from endearing British indie-rock-n-roll admirers to chart dominating stadium fillers. The lion's share is given over to their debut and best-selling album, Hot Fuss, whose highlights ('Mr Brightside', 'Somebody Told Me' and 'Smile Like You Mean It') still feel as bittersweet, breathless and thrilling as they did a decade ago, while Brandon Flowers' swagger on 'All These Things That I've Done' - as he intones "I've got soul, but I'm not a solider" - is the sound of a band ascending from interesting pop curio to household-name superstars.
Also well represented is Sam's Town which - despite a change of pace that feels like a truck driver shifting gears - was a strong album that marked their step into maturity. 'When You Were Young' and 'Read My Mind' striking a balance between the wistful longing of their indie-aping past and the Americana overtones of their pop-rock future. Although, with a self imposed three tracks to choose from, it seems inexplicable that you would include the rather limp 'For Reasons Unknown' over the superior 'Bones' - an omission which feels glaring by its absence.
With only four albums to chose from, it’s around this point that putting together the compilation in chronological order feels like a mistake. Not only does it feel lazy but - for a group with such a small pool of work to draw from - it only serves to highlight artistic decline when the returns begin to diminish
Contributions from Day & Age, taken in isolation, still feel as muddled here as they did upon original release: the grammatically awkward 'Human' with its flaccid psuedo-profundity, or the plodding 'A Dustland Fairytale' with its pedestrian allusions to death and lost dreams. ‘Spaceman’ is the most captivating song from this era and the only one that draws together the inheritance of their first two releases. Then there's Battle Born: considered by some as a return to form, away from the hype it feels like a band clutching at straws. 'Runaways', 'Miss Atomic Bomb' and ’The Way It Was' forming an indistinguishable morass of overblown Eighties bombast and crashing soft-rock guitars.
Then there are two newly recorded tracks, the instantly forgettable ‘Just Another Girl’ and the Anthony Gonzalez produced 'Shot At The Night’. The latter sounds like a DJ crossfading between Paul McCartney's 'No More Lonely Nights' and the soundtrack to Drive, a final attempt to inject life into a weary behemoth.
If you have the money to spare then there is also a deluxe edition of Direct Hits available, which closes out with Battle Born album cut, 'Be Still’. An intriguing choice to end the more expensive retrospective, it’s an impassioned lullaby with the coda, " Rise up like the sun/Labor till the work is done”. And perhaps this is the closest to a semi-poignant swan-song you’ll hear from Flowers and his bandmates, an implicit wink goodbye to those fans devout enough to spend the extra cash.
Ultimately, with too few albums to warrant a truly outstanding collection and a top-heavy chronological ordering the hits may be direct, but the death feels painfully slow. If this is the end - and there's nothing that hints towards new beginnings - what should have been a celebration of The Killers' rich career feels as hollow as the ersatz cityscapes which line the streets of their Las Vegas home. : http://dis.images.s3.amazonaws.com/93373.jpeg
4Tom Fenwick's Score