The Killers — image link that also takes you to a review of the album by Georgia Howlett (which I haven’t read yet)
For awhile now, when searching for new DVDs at the library I plug the year into the keyword and also into the year’s from and to fields. It works so well to find new movies. Up until now I hadn’t considered using it to search for new music CDs. Right now I have five new albums by the following on loan from the library: Rodney Crowell, Paul McCartney, The Black Keys, Alice Cooper, and The Killers. Are you as amazed by it as I am? I’m not sure whether new album reviews will become a regular feature or not, but for now I can commit to reviewing this one by The Killers.
Pressure Machine is the seventh studio album by American rock band the Killers, released on August 13, 2021. Guitarist Dave Keuning returned to the band and bassist Mark Stoermer is absent for this album. Interestingly, it looks like two versions exist, where one is abridged.
I’ve listened to the (unabridged) album three times so far and knew nothing about where it is set but it was clear that it was a concept album. Flowers wrote all of the lyrics to the songs before he wrote the music, and they are about his childhood in Nephi, Utah.The album is a sociological study of one place where I’m sure Flowers has specific people in mind, but really it could be set in Anywhere, USA and maybe even Anywhere, World. I sincerely love the format that is used on the album, which is to introduce each song with part of what sounds like an interview question response by various people. These are ekphrastic quotes, similar to how an image leads to an ekphrastic poem. It’s important that you hear the wisdom in what is said and what isn’t said by these ordinary-as-dirt folks.
The first three cuts have a strong Bruce Springsteen-meets-Steve Earle feel to them. “West Hills” talks about taking and getting busted for “hillbilly heroin,” a.k.a. prescription opioids. The irony is that he’s thrown in prison for possessing enough of the pills to kill one of the wild horses that run free in the hills that they like to look at while they’re high. It’s a tough song to listen to as it describes how the family in it is torn apart by the drugs. “Quiet Town” is about a young couple with a baby and their lives ahead of them who are killed by a train. Sadly, opioids are mentioned in this one also. “Terrible Thing” is about a person contemplating suicide. Reading about it, Flowers said it was for all of the gay kids in the closet in his town that he never knew were gay. Living in a repressed religious environment where,
The parking lot is rammed with shotgun pickup trucks
But the cards that I was dealt
will get you thrown out of the game
The fourth song, “Cody,” is a character study that will grab you, about a boy with a fascination with fire, who grows up into a man who’s,
…always got one on the line,
He likes to walk ’em by the wrist
He does his pulling with his eyes
He does his talking with his fists
The fifth track, “Sleepwalker,” is such beautiful prose describing gorgeous landscape that is also a pep talk to someone to shake themselves out of their paralysis.
“Runaway Horses” the sixth track, is a lovely ballad about young love found, then lost. It had me at its poignant introduction but also the first lines:
Small town girl
Coca-Cola grin, honeysuckle skin
Born beneath the ruddy sign of a strawberry moon
The seventh track, “In the Car Outside,” is a man who is struggling to understand how his wife has changed from the woman he fell in love with to one he is walking on eggshells around who is then tempted to cheat on her. The deep truth in this one is hard to ignore.
Track eight, “In Another Life,” is about a man who knows he should go home to his wife after his shift at the rubber plant but decides to stay at the honky tonk until who knows when. He’s drinking and he’s wondering about important things, existential questions that may or may not have answers.
Track nine’s music is a little different, with a Friends of Dean Martinez flair to it. “Desperate Things,” is a riveting soap opera of a woman who has grown used to her husband beating her, a sympathetic police officer, a secret rendezvous, and when love makes people do desperate things. I love this line from it:
When she undid the buttons of her dress
I didn’t stop her, but I could have
“Pressure Machine,” the tenth track, is about a working man who is asking existential questions about who he is, what he does, and why he feels anomie about what he senses is a lack of meaning in the big picture of his life. These lines speak volumes:
Sometimes I look at the stars
And think about how small we are
Sweating it out in the pressure machine
Good till the last drop
If I shut my mouth and keep the peace
She’ll cook my eggs in bacon grease
The final track, “The Getting By,” is a man questioning how much longer he’s got to wait until he sees the good life, where he can enjoy things, maybe take a vacation, etc., questioning whether that’s what God has really promised to carry through on or not. Another great line:
This whole town is tied to the torso
of God’s mysterious ways
From the very first listen of this album, I knew it was a winner, and each time I listen again I’m even more convinced of it. I love two of The Killers’ other albums (that I’ve heard so far), “Hot Fuzz” and “Sam’s Town.” I look at those two as fabulous and enjoyable listens that I never tire of. “Pressure Machine” is a different kind of animal; simpler production, yet more profound. Flowers sings them with authority. After all, this is his childhood he’s sharing. He knows it well.
Bits and pieces of information on the album came from wikipedia, but not much.