This country has two more national anthems than most: God Save the Queen, Three Lions and the Killers’ Mr Brightside, a song so anthemic it punches the air in its sleep. Yet the US band have never written a great ballad. This album still doesn’t deliver one, but it’s gentler and more introspective than usual. Singer Brandon Flowers – still stentorian, still pleading, a Meat Loaf Springsteen – explores Our Town, America through 11 dramatic monologues based on his Utah childhood. There’s a married cop who kills his girlfriend’s abusive husband, a yearning assembly lineman, an opioid addict, various down-homes nursing their “barbed wire dreams”.
In precedenza, the greedy brilliance of the Killers’ music diverted attention away from gauche lyrics such as “are we human or are we dancer”. It seems Flowers often wavers between poetic and demotic, then misses both. Is cutting grass or cooking eggs in bacon grease “working class”? And “it’s our local hero sports bar” doesn’t feel like something a human – or dancer – would say. Ancora, there are piquant observations set to lush soundtracks, and Flowers’s profound empathy is palpable. Probably their best album since 2004’s Hot Fuss.