Last year, I interviewed The Killers for the first time as the band rolled out their fifth career album, Wonderful Wonderful. It was an idiosyncratic and adventurous collection, complete with Bowie-esque glam and traditional rock anthems, arena-ready ballads and meandering experiments. For a band with 16 years of wear on their tires and staggering success over that time, it felt like exactly the kind of album they needed to make, something that didn’t rely on a formula and hedged their risks with what they knew would work. But it also found The Killers discussed in a familiar, dismissive, and often condescending way.
Speaking to both frontman Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr., what struck me most was how open they were about discussing their detractors. “My wife calls it ‘keyboard bangers,’ Flowers said about the journalists and bloggers that love to tear the band down. “She sees me when I let it get to me. And it’s frustrating. I think music journalism, in general, is just different than it was maybe in the seventies. There’s so much history and I do this to myself already, when I have to write a record, I think, what do I have to offer? How can I compete with everything that was done in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s? It just starts to really weigh on you.”
Vannucci would point out that Wonderful Wonderful actually holds the highest Metacritic rating of the band’s career, while Flowers would add that how an album ages isn’t necessarily reflected in criticisms of the time. Indeed, going back to see the reception at the time for their landmark 7-million-selling debut, Hot Fuss, finds a place like Pitchfork scoffing that it sounded like music created to land on a Now That’s What I Call Music comp, while Entertainment Weekly asked if it was too soon “for a Strokes tribute band.” Years before it would place Hot Fuss as the 43rd best album of the decade and the 33rd best debut of all-time, Rolling Stone came in with a far less enthusiastic 3-and-a-half star review. It would seem like the album just keeps getting better with age.
14 years after their debut, any knocks on the band couldn’t matter less. This week, The Killers are releasing The Killers Career Vinyl Box, a set of seven offerings (their five studio albums along with the rarities comp Sawdust and their live album Live From The Royal Albert Hall) all on 180 gram vinyl and packaged in a pretty snazzy collector’s case. It even comes with a Killers slip mat, because no Killers vinyl listening experience would be complete without it (but for real, it looks pretty awesome spinning around). It’s a collection seemingly made for die-hards, which, in reality, is a much larger group than most people admit. And it’s also an opportunity to listen to The Killers’ discography free of some of the burdens of context or narrative, hearing how well these songs sound when standing next to each other.