james debate
james debate

Sunday 10 October 2021

Genre Rock
Label Island
Producers Shawn Everett

pressure machine the killers best new album 2021

When The Killers announced the upcoming release of their seventh studio album, mere months after their previous album Imploding the Mirage, it raised a few eyebrows. A big name artist releasing two albums in such quick succession is practically unheard of in this day and age. For The Killers, the gap between albums has generally been 3-5 years historically, so the announcement that they would be releasing a second album in less than a year was surprising to say the least. But any concerns that this would be a rush job or album of B-sides has proven to be premature. On the contrary, Pressure Machine represents arguably the band's most complex and ambitious release to date. 

The Killers' frontman Brandon Flowers has been known to say that he would never stop writing new material, were it not for the need to travel, tour and promote his previous work. So perhaps it should not come as a surprise that he has used his year of lockdown, with all tours and commitments cancelled, for precisely that. Nor should it come as a surprise that an album written amid such sombre circumstances would strike a decidedly more introspective tone than we have come to expect from his work.

Previous albums have covered a broad swathe of matters that largely strike you in the heart: love, family, destiny, spirituality, ambition, topics that are relatable to most, and powered them with lyrics that are evocative rather than nuanced. "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier," "The stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun," "I saw the devil wrapping up his hands, he's getting ready for the showdown." Flowers is a master of this kind of songwriting. He has a spectacular eye for imagery and knows exactly how to hit his listeners deep in their gut. With Pressure Machine he takes much more of a  topical laser focus, attempting a sober and serious look at the struggles of small town American life, particularly in relation to the opioid crisis.

As a band that is best known for crafting songs as big, shiny objects, the more subtle nature of Pressure Machine's music may come as a shock to long-time fans. It's a bit like if filmmaker JJ Abrams decided that his next film should be an intimate portrayal of migrant workers during the Great Depression. That is not to say that The Killers have not previously dabbled in the intimate, but their past albums have largely been focused around the show-stopping anthems. Their most recent album, for example, featured tracks like Caution, My Own Soul's Warning, Dying Breed, and My God, each of which was a potential hit single with their broad, radio-friendly hooks and exhilarating tone. By contrast, Pressure Machine's music is much more of a slow-burn, without any obvious chart toppers and more understated, delicately crafted melodies. But while the music may not be as instantly impactful as some of their best known work, it does grow on you with repeated listens and its additional intricacy starts to shine.

On first listen, what stands out most from the music is how varied and textured it is compared to previous albums. Delicate keys and lingering strings, in addition to the usual jangling indie guitars. This is an album with a wide soundscape, from West Hills' raw outpouring of the soul, to the breezier country jam Quiet Town. In the Car Outside delivers some of the more energetic rock and roll that one would expect from The Killers and, in its climax, one of the best instrumental segments The Killers have ever produced. But perhaps the most impressive track is the title track Pressure Machine, a soft and soulful track of rare beauty. There is a lot going on her musically and it's often gorgeous. It is refreshing to see the band operating outside their usual comfort zone, exhibiting a greater musical dexterity than I think the band often gets credit. What surprised me, given the more understated nature of the music, was just how much these melodies got under my skin and stuck with me on repeated listens. While these songs may not have the visceral immediacy of those opening chords from Mr. Brightside, their subtle and timeless hooks nevertheless leave a lasting impression.

Where Pressure Machine doesn't quite succeed is in the lyrics. While Flowers' broad impressionistic style is effective in its own way, it's not especially well suited to this kind of discussion. The subject matter is one that demands insight, rather than evocative tugs on the heartstrings. Flowers has always been more of a poet than a piercing intellect and it makes for an uncomfortable fit with the vision of this album.

Pressure Machine marks an ambitious turn from The Killers, and delivers one of the band's most musically complex offerings, if not the raw excitement of their more famous hits. I suspect this is an album that could fly under the radar for many, failing to grab hold of the top 40 crowd, while struggling with critics that have historically been sceptical of the band's work. For those who give it a chance, however, they will find a powerful piece of work, with music that will surprise you in its longevity.

Must Listen :

Newer Post Older Post Home