The Killers: Pressure Machine review – Wistful look at American malaise

Flowers swerves away from stadium rock to focus on challenges facing his home town

Pressure Machine
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Artist: The Killers
Genre: Rock
Label: EMI

Sex, money, murder...The Killers have never been strangers to the darker side of human nature.

Lead singer Brandon Flowers has now put aside the more fantastical aspects of these themes on Pressure Machine, instead exploring the local tragedies that befell his hometown of Nephi, Utah, in the 1990s: the opioid epidemic, the stranglehold of religion, the undercurrent of disquiet that coloured small-town life between those snowy peaks and dusky canyons.

Fittingly, the sound has swerved away from the bombastic stadium rock of 2020’s Imploding the Mirage. There’s hardly a synth to be heard (though you’ll find one buried under a mouth organ on Quiet Town). Instead, acoustic guitars weeping gently on Runaway Horses (featuring a subdued Phoebe Bridgers); a wistful mandolin (West Hills); and four-piece Americana-driven rock (Cody). Even the murder ballad Desperate Things is a reverb-heavy slow jam – a far cry from the Jenny Was a Friend of Mine days of Hot Fuss.

Most interesting are the snippets of the current townspeople that begin each song. One man warns how “every two or three years the train kills somebody”, while an addict describes how “there’s a lot of opioids going around”.


With vignette-driven storytelling like this, it’s unsurprising that Flowers took inspiration from two great observers of American malaise, Bruce Springsteen and John Steinbeck. A little on the nose for some tastes at times – wild horses are surely done to death by now? – but even the misses here are handled with care.

Andrea Cleary

Andrea Cleary is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture