The Killers: Direct Hits

Direct Hits
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Artist: The Killers
Genre: Alternative
Label: Island Records

If you were to leave a bunch of New Order, The Cure and The Smiths albums out in the hot Nevada sun, they might eventually melt and then coalesce together to form a Killers album. It's difficult to fathom why a guy from Vegas was attracted to songs about dour northern English cities, but the teenage Brandon Flowers was indeed besotted by 1980s English indie guitar rock. Over The Killers' 10-year recording career he and the band have created a transnational pop/rock sound that combines artistic impression and technical merit.

There should have been a fifth studio album this year, but somewhere along the line there was apparently a crisis of confidence. So The Killers are going the greatest hits route with Direct Hits. Still, the two new songs included here (Shot at the Night and Just Another Girl) hint at future musical directions.

As with all retrospective releases, there are rumours of the band splitting (and Flowers has enjoyed a moderately successful solo career). But for the singer himself, this collection “feels like a great way to clean everything up and move onto the next thing”.

It's no coincidence that Hot Fuss, The Killers' 2004 debut, is best represented here, with four tracks (Mr Brightside, Somebody Told Me, Smile Like You Mean It and All These Things That I Have Done), as that remains their best-selling album (some seven million copies worldwide). Hot Fuss captured the band at their most dynamic and urgent – they were drawing as much from the Factory Records stable as they were from pop maestros A-ha.


Sam's Town (2006), though arguably a better album, didn't sell quite so strongly, but included here are When You Were Young, Read My Mind and For Reasons Unknown. What's clear here is that the band struggled somewhat with the tone and pace of Day and Age (2008) and Battle Born (2012). Caught between preserving their core fan base and wanting to stretch it out a bit, The Killers sometimes found themselves stuck up musical cul-de-sacs and with overly complicated song arrangements.

Their new single, Shot at the Night, begins as a Krautrock-lite affair but ends as pure 1980's MTV synthpop. Having now "cleaned everything up" with this collection, it will be interesting to see which fork in the road they take.

Brian Boyd

Brian Boyd

Brian Boyd, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes mainly about music and entertainment