Music Pop: Hot Fuss

Artist:  The Killers
Year:  2004
Example Song:  All These Things That I’ve Done

I’ve listened to a number of albums over the last few days and been mostly unable to decide which of them to review, but in the end since I don’t have the time to really scrutinise something new I’ve settled on the one I probably know best:  Hot Fuss, the debut album from Las Vegas natives the Killers.  I quite like the band, having been relatively familiar with them for a good while, and it’s safe to say this album is one I’ve listened to a number of times over the last five or so years.  It had been a while, and so it was an LP I was glad to revisit.

Hot-FussThe first song from any band’s debut album is a significant one (as far as I’m concerned), and on Hot Fuss the Killers produce a good impression with “Jenny was a Friend of Mine”. Although not released as a single, the catchy song is one of the band’s most respected.  The album then kicks up to another gear entirely, running through some great songs (all released as singles).  “Mr. Brightside”, a depressing yet optimistic tale of a man who suspects his girlfriend of cheating, “Smile Like You Mean It”, conversely more downbeat, and “Somebody Told Me”, with lyrics that confuse me a little, are all excellent, powerful songs and undoubtedly some of the Killers’ best-known. “All These Things That I’ve Done”, an anthem to self-improvement, is just that little bit even more special, making it my favourite song from the album.  The second half of the album doesn’t hit these heights but is not at all bad nonetheless; “Andy You’re a Star” is an impressive new-wave influenced rock song and “On Top” is a decent if unspectacular track.  Then comes “Change Your Mind”, a relatively short interlude.  “Believe Me Natalie”, next, is another pretty standard effort.  It’s followed by “Midnight Show”, quite a fast, energetic song, While “Everything Will Be Alright” is a much more laid-back tune that draws the album to a relaxing finish.

I like the Killers, although to be honest I probably like this album more than I like the band.  In fact it’s almost too good of a début, as nothing they’ve done since has been able to live up to such an impressive first effort (see Sum 41 for another example of this unfortunate affliction). In addition to this, as good as the album is overall I find it very hard to get past the decision to spunk the album’s four singles and (best-known songs) in the first five tracks – to a casual listener there’s very little reason to continue listening after the end of “All These Things That I’ve Done”.  But still, I’ll forgive them for that because I don’t think the Killers are the kind of band who made an album for the casual listener, and that’s a respectable trait in itself.  Hot Fuss is a great example of the early 2000s’ indie rock revival (along with the likes of the Strokes), and all in all one of my favourite rock albums of the 2000s.

My Rating:  8/10

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Music Pop: Winning Days

TheVines_WinningDays

Artist: The Vines

Year: 2004

Example song: Ride

So I’ve come to a realisation in the last couple of days:  It’s much easier to review a film than an album.  Much easier.  My thoughts on a film can be easily bashed out on a cheap plastic keyboard, but my reaction to music is much harder to pry out of my brain and into readable words.  I can (and did) watch a film once, and then the next day recall from memory (supplemented by a note or two) exactly what happened in that film.  Music?  Not so simple.  Perhaps it’s because when I’m watching a film I’m giving it my full attention, whereas I listened to the majority of this album on the bus.  Maybe it’s because a film has a coherent plot to fix a memory on, but an album is far more abstract and intangible.  This means that I’m clearly going to have to listen to an album more than once to review it, which seems to directly contradict my aim of experiencing as much as I can by listening to as much as I can.  However, I’m coming to realise that if I want to “experience” a piece of music, one listen ain’t gonna cut it.

Whatever the problem, (18 hours) after my first listen to this album I could only remember one song.  That is unsurprisingly Ride, the song in the video above, which I knew before listening to the album and is easily one of the Vines’ most popular tunes.  It’s an excellent song at that, very energetic and catchy, and serves as a good opening track to invite further exploration of the album.  I often worry about the decision to stick the hit song at the beginning of an album, but the band do a good job of living up to the high standard they’ve shown themselves to be able to hit.

So after another listen, I can give some more critical analysis (wow, I’ve got a high opinion of myself) on the rest of the songs, and the album as a whole.  It’s lively and yet it feels a little depressing in a way that reminds me a lot of the Manic Street Preachers; TV Pro is a good example of this.  The remainder of the album is upbeat yet peaceful before perking back up with Fuck the World to close. This is (perhaps unsurprisingly) more raucous, although it feels more ironic than seriously angry and finishes off the record on a pleasing note.

Overall, I thought that this was a very good album, and I feel inspired to investigate some more of the band’s work (one album prior, three since).  I’m a sucker for a song I recognise from a movie, the TV or the radio, and I sense that I won’t come across too many of those.  But I can certainly see the Vines becoming a solid addition to my library and, when I reach that stage somewhere on the other side of the horizon, my ultimate alternative/indie-rock playlist.

 

My rating:  7.5/10