The Killers: Wonderful Wonderful

Photo: Erik Weiss

It will never go down as anyone's favorite Killers album, but this is easily the most fun the Vegas rockers have had in years.

The Killers

Wonderful Wonderful

Label: Island
US Release Date: 2017-09-22
UK Release Date: 2017-09-22

The Killers were in need of redemption.

While glittery rock numbers like "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside" remain karaoke staples to this day, the Brandon Flowers-fronted band has done a remarkable job in the past several years of whittling down their fanbase to nothing but the absolute core. Yes, 2012's Battle Born debuted high on the charts and helped sell a bunch of tour tickets, but it was also their most critically ravaged release to date, and still their lowest-selling album by a Vegas mile, resulting in zero performing singles from a band that was known for delectable, danceable singles. After mixing blue-collar rock wisdom with some of their more ambitious songs to date on the cult classic that is 2006's Sam's Town, no one wanted to stick around and listen to a whole album of homogeneous Springsteen cosplay.

Hence the five-year break. The various solo projects. The greatest hits compilation. These were all signs of a band that had hit a wall, both commercially and creatively.

So how wonderful is it then to find an album called Wonderful Wonderful that features the Killers do one thing that no one thought they were capable of: being funny.

Reuniting with longtime producer Jacknife Lee, the Killers have this time out gone for something they haven't tried since their debut: a genuine pop-rock hybrid. Of course, in the Killersverse, this just means alternating between guitar-heavy numbers and synth-driven light dance pieces in equal step, but there's nothing wrong with hitting those marks. Although Wonderful Wonderful's title track/album opener is far and away the worst thing on here -- a hazy mess of pretentious lyrics ("Motherless child does thou believe / That thine afflictions have caused us to grieve?") and classic rock idioms repurposed just for the heck of it (Dave Keuning's chorus being one single chord strum away from turning into Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain") -- there's still a good deal of fun to be had, with Ronnie Vannucci, Jr.'s Bohnham-inspired drumming positively exploding out of your subwoofer. It's a producer's track for sure, but it's a nice defusing of fans' expectations, as nothing on the rest of the LP sounds remotely like it.

Case in point: "The Man". A bold choice for a lead single that is nothing but cartoonish braggadocio mixed with action-movie guitars, this odd-but-impactful number features Flowers' wafer-thin voice hitting straining high notes while spitting out lines like "They kiss on the ring, I carry the crown / Nothing can break, nothing can break me down." Unlike some of the self-aggrandizing statements he's made in the past (both on record and in the press), this time it feels like he's in on the joke, stacking up vocals to deliver the second verse punchline of how he's "USDA certified lean", and goodness it actually works.

The album is peppered with surprising little moments like this. The second single "Run for Cover", similarly, rides a some furiously strummed riffs to launch into one of the most genuinely comedic sets of lyrics Flowers has ever tossed out. Some of his punchlines deal with the insufferability of celebrities ("It's hard to pack the car when all you do is shame us / It's even harder when the dirtbag's famous", delivered with a snotty attitude straight out of '90s pop-punk) to trusting said dirtbags with your heart ("He got a big smile! / He's fake news!"). It's almost disarming how fun "Run for Cover" is, just as how "Rut" can be argued as their most unabashed stab at '80s idol worship to date, this time mining Phil Collins in both presentation and execution. Yes, this leads to a lot of heightened, saccharine drama, but no longer are they posing like what they're doing is high art. By embracing these eccentricities, the band is showing some genuine strut in their step, making for a very welcome change of pace.

Please don't ad block PopMatters.

We are wholly independent, with no corporate backers.

Simply whitelisting PopMatters is a show of support.

Thank you.

Yet in goofing on all of these inspirations (instead of merely repurposing them), the band sometimes falls back on worn tropes, with tracks like the MOR "Life to Come", the repetitious and generic ballad "Some Kind of Love", and the more synth-driven "Tyson vs. Douglas" proving remarkably forgettable when rubbing up against such clear and obvious highlights like "Out of My Mind", itself moving closer to Erasure-styled emotional dance-pop than anything approaching traditional pop-rock. "Take the needle off the record," Flowers pleads on that number, "I can't stand another chorus / About Juliet's control over mystified mankind."

Lines like that are telling, as on their own B-sides/rarities comp from 2007, the group was right there covering Dire Straits' "Romeo & Juliet", another fame-biting tale of love found and then rejected. Flowers approaches similar themes on Wonderful Wonderful but has the most fun putting his own spin on them. Closer "Have All the Songs Been Written?" feels more like an obligatory inspirational song than something that the band cares about, while the track that precedes it, "The Calling", goes absolutely Biblical in its lyrics, at times reverent and at times sneering, making for one of the most genuinely weird numbers the rockers have ever produced (which is why you hear Woody Harrelson reading verses during its intro).

These two sides of the band fighting against each other -- the expected and the obscure -- make for a half-great listening experience, but one that's leaps and bounds more entertaining than Battle Born. Best of all, Wonderful Wonderful is the sound of a band rediscovering why they're even making music in the first place, embracing their eccentricities instead of merely playing into what's expected of them. It will never be anyone's favorite Killers album, but it's the most fun we've had with them in years, and a hopeful sign of truly wonderful things yet to come.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.