Killers Try To 'Bring Back' Rock, But Not All Critics Are Onboard

Sam's Town has received some harsh reviews in recent weeks, but band is taking it all in stride.

The Killers have spent nearly a year of their lives writing, recording, mixing, mastering and promoting Sam's Town. Now comes the hard part: dealing with the critics.

Seems that not everyone has bought into frontman Brandon Flowers' assertion that Sam's is "one of the best albums in the past 20 years" (see "Killers' Next LP Will Show Strong Influence Of ... Bruce Springsteen!?"), as evidenced by a few fairly harsh reviews the disc has received in recent weeks. And the bandmembers would be lying if they said they weren't a bit miffed.

"There's all kinds of hype, and people are talking about it — for better or worse," guitarist Dave Keuning laughed. "It's mostly good, but there are always some people who have to be negative. It wouldn't have mattered what we put out — they already had their minds made up."

"Like, two stars in Rolling Stone," Flowers added. "But there have been a lot of great things said about it too, most of it from England and Europe. A lot of great press has been written about the record."

It's not like the Killers haven't been setting themselves up for some sort of backlash: They've adopted a new look (kinda spaghetti Western), and packaged Sam's Town with arty black-and-white photography by Anton Corbijn (who shot the cover of U2's The Joshua Tree). Then, of course, there's the whole "sophomore slump" thing.

But nothing has been harped on quite as much as a couple of quotes from Flowers. Chief among them is the aforementioned "20 years" line, which he says has been misinterpreted. Flowers also expresses frustration over people's expectations: He says the Killers aimed for the stars with Sam's Town — and there's nothing wrong with that.

"The sky used to be the limit, and it's not anymore. It's about 200 feet, and beyond that people think you're being comical," he said. "People ask me if we were trying to be funny with this record because it's big and exciting and confident. And my answer is, 'I don't think Beethoven was trying to be funny.' We're taking it seriously — we can laugh at ourselves, of course — but rock and roll used to be about not having limits, not having your box, and that's disappeared somewhere along the way. We're trying to bring it back."

There's also the matter of Bruce Springsteen, who, according to Flowers, was a big influence on his songwriting. The only problem is that many critics have noted that perhaps that influence spilled over into outright aping of the Boss, particularly on Sam's first single, "When You Were Young."

"[The Springsteen comparisons] are getting old and annoying," Keuning said. "It's amazing what one comment can do, like how it can take a life of its own. There's a lot of influences on the band outside of Bruce Springsteen."

While they'd probably prefer to stew for a bit about Sam's patchy reception, the Killers are forced to move on. On Friday, they'll kick off their North American arena tour in support of the disc (see "Killers Take Flair For The Dramatic On North American Theater Tour"). And sometime after that, the world will see the Tim Burton-directed video for "Bones," the second single from the record (see "Killers Are (Beetle) Juiced For Tim Burton-Directed 'Bones' Clip").  

"We wanted to be a band that built gradually. And it's kind of hard to do that when you sell so many copies of your first record," bassist Mark Stoermer sighed. "But we made the best record we could make, and at the end of the day, that's all you can do. We just controlled our side of things, and we set that bar really high."