opinion by JESSE NEE-VOGELMAN
This isn’t a collection meant for anyone trying to “get into” the Killers, or discover anything new about the band. However, seeing as they’ve only ever released singles and filler, the Killers’ limited discography is perfect for the compilation format. As Direct Hits suggests, it’s just a quick way to get to what’s relevant about them, an I.V. drip of catchy tunes from a time when your emotions were still raw and tender. Now we can all stop pretending that anyone has ever heard Sam’s Town B-Sides like “Why Do I Keep Counting?”—Is that even a real Killers song? Who knows!?—and get down to business: indulging in shamelessly masturbatory sentimentality.
Like Blink 182 or Uncle Kracker, the Killers is now primarily relevant as a nostalgia-fueled machine for my middle school memories: confusedly discussing the wonderfully gender-bendy chorus to “Somebody Told Me” while eating Funyuns before P.E. or falling in love with my best friend’s girlfriend as she played “When You Were Young” on Rockband.
As the Killers aged, however, their music has grown more sterile—something this compilation unfortunately highlights. They’ve slowly fallen into the quicksand genre of Indie-lite; if you mention them at a party you’ll probably get the response, “The Killers? Do you even read Pitchfork?” In particular, the tracks off Battle Born—their most recent LP—are little more than shallow synthy zeitgeist-aimed fluff. Even their better post-2006 songs don’t match up to the raw, unapologetic energy of their earliest releases. I like “Human,” but riding around in my Volvo hatchback as a senior in high school, all I focused was the ludicrously earnest imploration: “Are we human, or are we dancer?” (apparently a reference to Hunter S. Thompson, a figure so oppositely counter-culture to the Killers’ mom-sanctioned rock that its almost difficult to imagine a universe that contains both of them).
That’s the thing about contemporary Killers, they just try so hard. There’s basically nothing to remind us of Hot Fuss-era Brandon Flowers, back when he was an alt-rock badass and earning NME “Sexiest Man” statuettes. Now, when they make new albums, I think oh cute, and then request “All These Things That I’ve Done” so I can scream the gospel breakdown, deliberately ignoring the artificial darkening of one of the whitest bands in the history of a white genre.
Regrettably, though, there is new material on Direct Hits that must be addressed. “Just Another Girl,” is largely uneventful, and emblematic of the Killers’ poor tendencies on Battle Born. “Shot at the Night,” isn’t so bad, but anything that I once loved about the Killers is covered up by producer Anthony Gonzales (of the wonderful French electronic band M83). It’s a solid song, but I didn’t start listening to the Killers for this grandiose U2-worshipping stadium rock. Other people do it better, like Gonzales himself.
As for the deluxe edition bonus tracks, they probably just shouldn’t exist. The Mr. Brightside original demo tape is relevant only to diehard Killers fanboys. The “When We Were Young” remix has some kitsch value, but “Be Still” has absolutely no business being a bonus track when it’s a forgotten song from a mediocre album released one year ago. GET ME BACK TO THE OLDIES!
Perhaps this review is a little too specific to my generation, but after all, that’s the target. It’s a little tug at our jackets as we walk away, because after we’re gone, who else is going to remember them? This album just isn’t really relevant for anyone who never went to an awkward middle school dance that featured “Mr. Brightside” as you stood in the corner, wondering how sex worked.
All that withstanding, if you can ignore the songs after “Spaceman,” Direct Hits would make a great tongue-in-cheek stocking stuffer for a high school reunion Christmas party. After all, how bad could it be to take a couple of weeks to stop meticulously trying to stay ahead of the indie curve and relive when you first fell in love with this type of music, probably about halfway through puberty, in a friend’s basement watching That 70s Show, and playing ping-pong back before you had any idea what it meant to be cool. [C+]
The Killers – Direct Hits Tracklist:
01 Mr. Brightside
02 Somebody Told Me
03 Smile Like You Mean It
04 All These Things That I’ve Done
05 When You Were Young
06 Read My Mind
07 For Reasons Unknown
10 A Dustland Fairytale
12 Miss Atomic Bomb
13 The Way It Was
14 Shot At the Night
15 Just Another Girl
16 Mr. Brightside (Original Demo)
17 When You Were Young (Calvin Harris Remix)
18 Be Still