The Killers Vs. Kanye

The Killers are fun but vapid, like their hometown

No one's sick of talking about Kanye West, right? Because if the Killers are going to keep it up, why shouldn't I?

After Kanye stole the mic and the spotlight from Taylor Swift at the VMAs in a publicity stunt — the blatant scripting of which has been addressed in painful detail by music editor Martin Cizmar in his Twitter feed — the Las Vegas quartet offered up its own take on the parodies that have been filling up YouTube.

At a recent show, Jimmy Kimmel stormed the stage wearing Kanye's trademark shades and grabbed lead signer Brandon Flowers' microphone to announce that the opening act, the Psychedelic Furs had "one of the best songs of the night," prompting the band to return to the stage and join the Killers for "Pretty in Pink."

As Chris Crocker would say, "Leave Kanye alone!"

After all, it can't be easy being Kanye. That kind of talent comes with pressure that these guys can't quite understand. The best thing Kimmel ever did was dating Sarah Silverman, and as for the Killers, they're all right, but definitely not quite as inspired.

Flowers gave an interview to Rolling Stone this month that brings the problem into focus. When he was asked about the creative driving force behind the Killers, Flowers said that while some artists are driven to create defining moments in their lives, he wants to make music of his own because he gets jealous when he hears something good on the radio.

I get that. Anyone who's heard Appetite for Destruction has wanted to be in a band, but that just isn't the kind of motivation that makes for great music. Kanye is driven by a need to show up all the doubters, and he puts out The College Dropout. His mother dies, and we get 808s and Heartbreak.

The Killers, meanwhile, grew up in a city saturated in glitz and gaudiness, so we get their latest album, Day and Age, a collection of songs that sound so bright and upbeat that you could be forgiven for overlooking the fact that so many of them are actually stories about loss and leaving.

Don't get me wrong: Like Vegas, that's not all that bad. Sure, there's mob activity, hookers, a fortune blown every minute and a depressing lack of culture in the city, but those lights sure are pretty. Does anyone go there and really have a bad time? Not that I know of. Just watch The Hangover.

And that's a lot like listening to this album, and tracks like "I Can't Stay" in particular. The name tells as much of the story as you need to know, but the Killers fluff up the tune with maracas, ascending harps, smooth-jazz saxophone, and Jimmy Buffett-style guitars. Breaking up never sounded so fun. It makes as much sense as putting the Eiffel Tower across the street from New York, New York, but in Vegas, anything goes.

It's not confidential that these guys have potential, but in the end, they've built their music on too little foundation and without a real vision. That's bound to leave listeners wanting. Just wanting to be a music writer doesn't make my work any more inspired, as anyone who's left comments on my stories can tell you.

So go ahead and knock the big name, guys. The Killers are as close to Kanye as the Venetian is to Venice.
Mon., Sept. 28, 8 p.m., 2009

 
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