As the 20th anniversary of their debut album approaches, The Killers are taking stock. When Brandon Flowers and his bandmates – some of them now former bandmates – released Hot Fuss, in 2004, they may have dreamed of becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. Two decades later, here they are: a bit like U2 (albeit without the charisma) and a bit like Coldplay (although without the cliched grandstanding), but stubbornly capable of filling arenas and stadiums all over the world nevertheless.
If nothing else, the Las Vegas troupe’s second greatest-hits collection (their last, Direct Hits, gathered tracks from their first four albums) is a good opportunity to evaluate the best cuts from their seven studio albums in chronological order. Although those of us of a certain age remain inextricably bound by indie-disco nostalgia when it comes to Hot Fuss and its plethora of bangers (included here are Jenny Was a Friend of Mine, All These Things That I’ve Done, Somebody Told Me and Mr Brightside, all of which still glimmer and sparkle with a jittery, exhilarating headrush), in truth, Flowers and company have never bettered that debut, at least in terms of consistency.
Still, there are some fine cuts from what came after. Their Springsteen era was ushered in with Sam’s Town, an album that scaled back the synthpop for a more considered heartland-rock sound on tracks like When You Were Young. Their third album, Day and Age, spawned hits such as Human and the forgettable Spaceman, but it’s around this point of the compilation – and, moreover, their career – that things begin to flag. A glut of tracks from Battle Born, including the dreadfully overrated A Dustland Fairytale, are banal affairs, while only one song from 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful makes the cut here, although there is something to be said for the band leaning wholeheartedly into Las Vegas glitz and chintz with The Man.
The Killers managed to claw back some credibility with 2020’s star-studded Imploding the Mirage, largely thanks to the Lindsey Buckingham-aided Caution, a soaring indie-rock anthem that remains among their finest. Still, even though the band have never been the types to go to for chin-stroking metaphors or thought-provoking lyrics, hearing their biggest hits pulled together in this way illustrates their tendency to recycle both motifs and melodies.
Their propensity to hero-worship is similarly betrayed by their most recent singles included here; there are traces of Erasure on Boy and of Pet Shop Boys on Your Side of Town, and their new track Spirit is an odd mesh of New Order and Underworld. This compilation’s cover art seems apt, in that respect: there’s a 50-50 chance of landing a hit with The Killers, but the house always wins.