*Note: This was written in the week of June 7th, 2014. After many months of hearing diddly squat back from the Rumpus, I’ve decided to release it here.*
On June7th, 2004 a bouncing, eleven-track, forty-five-minute-or-so long debut album came into the world. It was by an American band, but being that the band was under a British record label, the UK got it on June 7th, and the US got it June 15th. The Brits got “Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll.” The Yanks got “Change Your Mind.” I say the battle was won by the US. It was the Killers’ Hot Fuss, and I am a going to make a great big fuss about it.
I had a relationship with the album, and so June 2014 felt like my boyfriend’s birthday, with Brandon Flowers’ birthday on top of that. I wrote this as a way of celebrating, because Tweeting about it, blogging about it on Tumblr, and listening to it on Spotify just didn’t seem enough. Rather than form some band that I would call the Genius Sex Poets, writing songs in the style of the music from the decade of my youth, and having a meteoric rise with the first song we ever wrote together, I decided this would be good enough. This would have to do.
I was nine going on ten when I heard my first song, “Somebody Told Me,” and I heard via the music video on one of those higher up MTV music video channels. I was titillated by pretty much everything going on, the lyrics, which I was old enough to understand (I watched Will & Grace), the Jumbotron, Brandon Flowers indie hair and dance moves. I sang the chorus aloud one day to my sister’s dismay. She got cross with me, so I changed the lyrics from “you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend” to “you had a girlfriend who looked like a boyfriend.”
“Mr. Brightside.” Mr. Brightside! I can’t remember the first time I heard it. It was probably on one of the DC pop stations my sister picked up on her stereo/CD/boombox, but most likely I came upon it on through the music video. The actual US video was too risque for my mother to be all right with me watching it. I first watched some recording of a live performance, then my mom came around, and I wish I could describe how my body has a platonic reaction to the sound of cymbals at the beginning as Brandon Flowers stands there looking all dapper.
Around this time “Somebody Told Me” wasn’t getting the play on MTV that it once did. I would spend time reading my sister’s teen magazines, more so than children’s literature (hmm that’s something to think about) and I find this one tiny article comparing Brandon Flower’s appearance in “Somebody Told Me” to the one he had in “Mr. Brightside” and I gasped and ran to my mother saying, “Mommy! Mommy! They’re the same person. Here I was loving them both, and they’re the same person!” It was something of that sort; similar to when
the superhero’s leading lady finds out that he is the sweet guy they have known for years and the sexy superhero that saves them once a week.
Mr. Brightside was on Now That’s What I Call Music! Volume 19. It was nestled at the end between Relient K’s “Be My Escape” (another favorite song that I could never hate, because I loved it as much as a I did as a kid) and “Speed of Sound,” with “Speed of Sound” being followed by “Feel Good Inc.” Though I love all four of those songs, I would go to bed on the midsummer nights of 2005 with my sister’s CD player/stereo/boombox beside me, “Mr. Brightside” playing on repeat, but I couldn’t sleep with how my mind would have all this energy.
On a day when my sister and mother went to the McDonald’s down the road in our suburbs, I had “Mr. Brightside” on blast and choreographed a dance, leaping from my late grandfather’s green chair. Sorry, Grandad.
2006 came around in a flash. I had seen “When You Were Young” and “Bones,” and I didn’t get riled up as others did, bitching about the moustaches and western bow ties. It was great music, and after seeing indie hair Brandon turn into Brandiva, I knew to expect anything. It was around the time the “Bones” video came out, and I didn’t have Internet. It was the dark ages, I tell ya! I did have Vh1 that played music videos until eleven in the morning, and the Anton Chobin video for “All These Things That I’ve Done” came on. Having never heard the song before, I thought it was part of Sam’s Town. This idea that it was depicting Brandiva turning into Sam’s Town Brandon formed, and I still see it that way.
2008: Yahoo Music was everything to me. I watched “Mr. Brightside” (I think) and it was suggested that I watch “Smile Like You Mean It.” “I’ve never heard/scene this,” I say to myself. I was wrong, though. The band performed it on The O.C. back in the good old days of 2004. I recognized it as something from the Hot Fuss era, I click, I watch, I cry, because it was damn beautiful. I was sentimental, thinking back to the living room, the CD player/stereo/boombox, Grandad’s chair. I did that when watching Mr. Brightside, but here was a song about the passage of time, about missing things, and sorrow and everything I was dealing with that day. A beast was awakened. I listened to as much of the discography I could get my hands on in those pre-Spotify, no-credit-card days.
There was really no looking back after that. I mean, I got Day & Age for Christmas months later and destroyed the poor thing with how many times I listened to it. My sister got me the soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: New Moon and my favorite track was “White Demon Love Song.” I cried to “Miss Atomic Bomb.” As time has gone on I have matured and found more to love about Hot Fuss, Sam’s Town, Day & Age, and Battle Born. I love many bands, but no band has meant more to me than the Killers. I will not apologize for believing the Mormon who wore feathers for a whole year is the coolest man alive and a real role model, who went from some sad, drunken live performer to one of the most charismatic arena rockers. You’ll never see me give an apology for my opinion that Ronnie Vannucci Jr. is the greatest drummer. I unashamedly say Mark Stoermer instead of Jesus Christ, and I want a white Fender like the one Dave Keuning has.
“Jenny was a Friend of Mine” has one of the greatest bass lines there ever was. You can make out every instrument. A song cannot be seen, yet this song has glitz. It dazzles. It sucks you into the Vegasphere love letter to new wave ’80s rock, and it flows aqueously from start to finish. “Mr. Brightside’s transistion from distorted techno voice to faux-Brit vocal preening can be described as someone trapped in a computer being freed. When I listen, I can still remember that dance. No chair leaps, though. I’ve heard people ask the question if we are born knowing the words to this song. It honestly feels like it. The urge to dance it out in the style of
Kevin Bacon finding out dancing has been outlawed is unavoidable. It brings on a music montage of a perfectly choreographed dance number set at a teen party in a John Hugh’s movie, where the partygoers are everyone who has ever rejected you.
They dance around you. The dance floor is a gigantic green recliner. Everyone is leaping everywhere. They dance before a giant CD player/stereo/boombox. They thrash themselves around to the beat of the drums.
Doo doo. Doo. Done. Wait. There’s a little guitar that brings you to… “Smile Like
You Mean It.” Imagine it in a capllea. I think it would work. I think it would be glorious.
Listen to this and “Tunnels” by Arcade Fire, and try to not tell me these songs could be
put together and be something that didn’t sound homogenous with a track off of Satan’s Playlist of Doom. It would be snazzy. The guitar whine’s romantically for the first minute and the
drums are rain pouring on a terrible day filled with nostalgia; all that was wanted, all that was
had, all that it was thought would be had. “Dreams aren’t what they used to be.
Some things slide by so carelessly.”
These things are the things that everyone knows but no one ever says, because what’s the point; everyone already knows? The truth hurts, but its beautiful, and just turns into a story to tell eventually. The vocals do not waiver from the most somber, lowest part of Brandon Flowers’ vocal register until the end where he pleads “Oh no. Oh no. No. No,” then lets out a stream of “No. No. No. No,” from which it fades off and leaves you with the guitar, drums, and whispering bass.
“Somebody Told Me” is the requiem of the Naughty Naughties. “Ooh. Ooh-ooh.” It’s scandalous and decadent, but in a way that doesn’t get the “Parental Advisory” label. “All These Things That I’ve Done” is the anthem that plays in my head when I put all of my fuck ups in a row and think that my flaws will get me somewhere. “Andy, You’re a Star” is about the inner-kerfuffle of at once prizing one’s unique quality and at the same time wanting to be the popular kid. “On Top” is as good a play for the build-up to getting a nice lay as it is for a solo joy ride or the dance floor. I’m a big fan of the glissando at 1:36-1:37 in “Change Your Mind.” There’s a video from last year of TK performing it after the Wembley gig at the Relentless Garage. It’s incredible and really shows how Brandon Flowers’s voice has developed. “Believe Me, Natalie” makes me wish my name was Natalie. “If my dreams for us can get you through just one more day/ It’s alright by me. God, help me somehow/ There’s no time for survival left/ The time is now/ Cause this might be your last chance to disco.” Damn. Those words demand to be crooned broodingly as loudly as possibly. How, Mr. Flowers? How did this song come to be, and why does it have an ineffable effect on me?
To think a song about murder could sound this sexy, fun, and I dare to say humorous. “Midnight Show” is the sexy, crazy sister of “Jenny was a Friend of Mine.” The narrator is trying to dispose of Jenny. He’s tortured by fear of being caught, not guilt. The end of the song is her weighed-down body plunging into the depths of whatever deep body of water there is in the desert’s heart.
“Everything Will Be Alright” is the song I listened to on the roughest nights of my freshman year in college, supplanting Modest Mouse’s “Float On” as the song that got me through things, because I was dealing with things I never dealt with before; a broken heart, a changing heart, and the only thing to get me through was my love for the Killers that reignited with a vengeance the summer before. It seems like a promise. It’s like the relief of finally falling asleep when you didn’t think you would be able to.
While most people say that Brandon, Mark, Ronnie, and Dave should have stuck to the formula, I see Hot Fuss as the first chapter in some story you’d see in a movie. It’s a testament to youth. It’s the best of the ‘80s, ‘90s, 2k, and today. It’s terrific, but it’s also a springboard. Without this album there wouldn’t be “When You Were Young,” that kick-ass cover of “Shadowplay,” “Spaceman,” or “Flesh & Bone;” songs that get my blood pumping and spine tingling. It is part of why I am who I am. It’s the prize of my vinyl collection, composed of mostly vinyls I got for a quarter each at a Catholic thrift shop, and ones that my family no longer wanted. It is on my iPod. It is a jewel in the crown worn by the jewel of the jewel of the Mojave Desert, and I hope this has been a good enough of a tribute to it. I also hope there are children who are about as old as this album, and about the same age I was when I got my first taste of it, who are being introduced to it someway and love it as much as I do.