"Mr. Brightside?" I don't know her.
Photo by Rob Loud
I will never hear The Killers' debut Hot Fuss the way I first heard it when I was 16—specifically their gorgeous closing track, "Everything Will Be Alright." The teen you who heard a record for the first time is pure in a way. That act of listening doesn't carry the baggage of criticism or culture—you just fucking like the song or you don't and go from there. The Killers are so profoundly the millennial zeitgeist that it is hard to separate them from the band who appeared on The OC but at one point they were brand new, untouched yet by success and nostalgia or cultural criticism. Hot Fuss was (and still is) electric from start to finish. And while so many focus on the standout single and megahit "Mr. Brightside," the best song off of that album is "Everything Will Be Alright." In fact, it is their best song period.
"Everything Will Be Alright" remains similar to rest of Hot Fuss in that it is a deeply synthpop, guitar heavy track about love. It's reminiscent of and inspired by 80s pop music; soul-baring with over the top keys that almost eclipse Brandon Flowers' vocals. The percussive element—care of drummer Ronnie Vannucci—grounds the track, making it more of a mesmerizing echo, drawing out the longing you feel in the lyrics. "Everything" captures what The Killers do very well, which is pop love songs. It's a romantic and soft track, one that is surely Robert Smith approved. (There is a reddit thread—albeit small—dedicated to a lyric that appears in both this Killers track and "A Night Like This," suggesting homage to the 80s sad boy pseudo-goth band.)
The Las Vegas band deals in memory and the feelings associated with them: from shy synthpop about love and lust to a lonesome Americana that once existed to the existential unease of being human. With "Everything," The Killers managed to blend an old world noir with direct, affecting lyrics ("To say the least, I'd thought I'd seen them all/Then you took me by surprise/I'm dreaming 'bout those dreamy eyes") as though they are spoken by someone with an aching heart wandering the Vegas strip.
Of their hits, such as "When We Were Young" off Sam's Town or "Human" from Day and Age, along with "Mr. Brightside," there is an earnestness to sonically take up as much space as possible; to be big, bold, and loud. Which is fine, and those songs are objectively good, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are the best songs. Their records since Hot Fuss follow this sort of formula (even on slower tracks like "Reasons Unknown.") This song though, brought down to its essence, is a very good love song that surpasses their loudest hits because it is a simple, unadorned track that sounds more candid. The almost six-minute track is dream-like and fuzzy around the edges. Where the other songs take up space, "Everything" gives you space. Some songs beg you to see their meaning—to see the carefully crafted subtext woven throughout— some songs take on a meaning because the listener (you) has given it such. Many musicians prefer that; to be removed from the narrative, so to speak, of what their songs actually mean and let the lyrics and the composition mean something different to different people. And to me, "Everything" meant goosebumps on skin; a sonic love letter; a song that instantly cued up in my brain at the thought of my crush. It meant giving into a feeling and drifting along that aural wave in a way that their hits could never do.
The Killers are back this year (along with almost all of your indie rock favourites from the early 2000s.) They haven't really left per se but they are now more immediately relevant. Whether it's debating their place in the Millennial Stairway to Heaven competition (the answer to this list is objectively wrong, it should be "All These Things That I've Done") to Brandon Flowers' babe status (pardon but he very much has me on edge), The Killers are something of a hot commodity to fuss over. Unfortunately, with their legacy further fortified, their hits are what fans will demand along with any new material. The Killers have only ever played "Everything" live six times in the almost 13 years since their debut was released. It's a shame one of their most beautiful tracks gets so little space for live sets. Sometimes the best things aren't bombastic sing-a-long singles and instead are the whispers waiting at the very end.
Sarah is still waiting and will continue to wait to hear this song live. Follow her on Twitter.