There are few things as powerful as the band you loved in high school.
You know what I mean.
That song you heard on the radio when you were sixteen and IT SPOKE TO YOUR VERY SOUL so you saved up your money from your part-time summer job to buy the album and it turns out ALL THE SONGS SPEAK TO YOUR SOUL and who is this incredible band who can shake you to your core?
That’s the band you loved in high school.
Most of us have a handful of songs that profoundly change us, but it’s a rare band that can do it again. And again. And again.
For me, that band is the Killers.
Hot Fuss is the first new album I ever bought. By that, I mean it was the first CD I ever got from the “new” section at Target. Until then, my music purchases were exclusively greatest hits collections of bands I had heard on the oldies stations: Simon and Garfunkel, Styx, REO Speedwagon. I went out on a limb to buy Hot Fuss, and I’ve never looked back. This was the CD on constant rotation in my car – back when all I had was a tape deck, so I bought a tape adapter that plugged into my knockoff Discman that you had to hold up when you crossed the railroad tracks lest it jolt itself into stopping. My friends and I listened to the Killers during our constant sojourns from Arlington to Brookings, and those were the songs that you knew you’d never forget. More importantly, those were the times with friends you’d never forget. Every time I heard “All These Things That I’ve Done” or “Mr Brightside” thereafter, I was right back in my little blue coupe with my friends Bob, Sarah, or Allison, singing to the Killers and dreaming of the great things we’d do.
|To give you an idea of what we're dealing with, here's a picture of|
Bob and me circa October 2004. We truly did believe that AHS
Oral Interp rocked.
Hot Fuss was released in 2004. Fast forward to 2018. The Killers were going to be at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, and Sarah and I were GOING. Just months before, we had gone to a Modest Mouse concert in Sioux Falls and had discussed our “bucket list” concerts. The Killers made both of our lists, and we promised that should the opportunity ever arise, we would go. And it DID. And we went, and it was incredible. There was so much joy filling that place you could almost see it.
This was two weeks ago, and I have been listening to the Killers nonstop ever since. I have rediscovered some of the songs I loved as a teenager/young twentysomething, and I have found a batch of new ones that I never really listened to before (as I was too busy with the old favourites).
And you know what? My initial list of Killers songs that I loved with all my heart was sixteen entries long. After much thought, I narrowed it down to the top ten. Let me tell you: it was like choosing favourite children (or so I’d imagine, but it’s probably not like that at all).
I hope you’re ready for an extra-special glimpse into my teenage years.
All These Things That I’ve Done
THIS SONG. “All These Things That I’ve Done” is from Hot Fuss, and the first time I heard it, I fell in love. The Killers have a knack for pop-rocky anthems, and this is not the only pop-rocky anthem you’ll see on this list. This song spoke to me – we all want to do something important in our lives, and when you’re young, you just know you will. “I want to shine on in the hearts of men/I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand.” But… how do you get there? “I need direction to perfection no no no no help me out.” Many of the Killers’ songs have this underlying “how did I get here/what has my life become/I need to get out of this place” theme, which was relatable as a young twenty-something working a thousand part-time jobs to make ends meet. It’s still relatable today: did I make the right choices? Is this where I belong? I don’t know if we ever know the answers, but no one can put that feeling into words like the Killers.
Sam’s Town is the second Killers album, and it’s just as wonderful (if not better) than Hot Fuss. It came out in 2006, when I was a sophomore in college. I didn’t get much into Sam’s Town back then – I was working for KUMM, the alternative radio station at my college, and we weren’t allowed to play anything that had been in the Top 40 for the last ten years. I started listening to Sam’s Town when I was living in Minneapolis and had the Current on all day, every day. “Bones” was the first song I knew from Sam’s Town, and it opened the door to that amazing album.
Day & Age is the third Killers album, released at the end of 2008. This album I missed completely – that was the middle of my senior year of college, and I was busy with life stuff. I didn’t even have a radio show that year. I didn’t hear “Human” until I was working at American Eagle Outfitters in New Orleans in the fall/winter of 2009. American Eagle piped music through the store, and the company sent each store a new CD to play every month or so. As soon as I heard “Human” coming through the speakers, I knew it was the Killers. I quickly scribbled down a couple of lyrics so I could Google them when I got home (remember those days?). That music was one of the few things getting me through my bleak days of retail and poverty. That, and the fact that I was living in New Orleans. Who can really be sad there?
“Mr Brightside” is, hands down, my favourite Killers song. The second I hear that opening guitar riff, I can just feel my spirits rise. It is one of those songs that I will never skip, and I could listen to it every day until I die and still love it so. It’s from Hot Fuss, and the sound of it on vinyl is perfection. This was the last song that the Killers played at the concert, and the place went wild. I was actually jumping up and down. Joy filled every corner of the room, and I still carry that feeling with me weeks later.
Read My Mind
“Read My Mind” is a new addition to this list. I had heard it before, but it hadn’t struck a chord with me like many of these other songs. However, when I heard Brandon Flowers sing this in concert, I felt it in my bones. I have listened to it every day (no joke) since that concert, and I love it more and more. Like almost all of the songs on this list, “Read My Mind” is filled with that “small down big dreams” sentiment that nearly everyone who has lived in a small town has felt: “Never really gave up on/breaking out of this two-star town.”
Battle Born is the Killers’ album that I missed completely. It came out in 2012, and I know that I’m a terrible fangirl. I had lots on my mind in 2012: I had started my job at the library, and I had gotten engaged. I was not on the lookout for new music. I didn’t hear “Runaways” until I pushed “shuffle” on my iPod, and it somehow popped up. Another song about the impossibility of escape, its soaring vocals are earth-shaking.
“Rut” is the only song I’m really into off their most recent album, Wonderful Wonderful. Sarah had gotten the album when she bought the tickets for the concert, so we listened to it on the way to the cities and in our Airbnb before the concert. “Rut” struck me right away, and they performed it that night. It has a much more modern sound than my other favourite Killers songs – the rest of them are pretty firmly rooted in noughties sound (you know: that oh-so-perfect blend of pop/rock/angst from the late 90s and early 2000s that you recognize in an instant). It’s got a ballad feel, and it, like every other damn song by the Killers, speaks right to me.
Obviously, “Sam’s Town” is from Sam’s Town. Remarkably, I never appreciated “Sam’s Town” until I was listening to the entire Killers catalogue in preparation for this concert. This was a slap-you-in-the-face kind of experience: where had this song been all my life? This song is EXACTLY how it felt to be me as a teenager: “I’ve got this energy beneath my feet/like something underground’s gonna come and carry me.” I felt like my small town couldn’t contain me; I was going to blast off into the world and really be somebody. “Sam’s Town” has my current favourite song lyrics, which also mirror my exact teenage thoughts about my hometown: “nobody ever had a dream ‘round here/but I don’t really mind that it’s starting to get to me.” Though I am now 30 and do not look so harshly upon my hometown, hearing this song makes all those emotions come flooding back. Few feelings are so intense as those you have as an angsty teenager.
Remember how I first heard “Human”? On an American Eagle soundtrack? Same story with “Spaceman.” If memory serves me correctly, they were not on the same store CD; just consecutive ones. No matter what kind of always-less-than-perfect day I was having at American Eagle – refolding an entire pile of flimsy t-shirts because SOMEONE grabbed the very bottom one and toppled the rest over, for example – hearing the Killers in the store would lift my mood. To this day, though, I can’t hear “Human” or “Spaceman” without having flashbacks to those desperate days.
When You Were Young
Have you noticed how many of these songs speak directly to that feeling of small town loneliness and that need to break free? Here’s one more. The fourth song on this list from Sam’s Town, “When You Were Young” was on the radio nonstop when it first came out. It has the greatest lyrics: “he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus/but he talks like a gentleman/like you imagined when you were young.” When you grow up in a small town where nearly everyone is so totally different from you, you do wonder who will come in and save you: “you sit there in your heartache/waiting on some beautiful boy to/save you from your old ways.”
I am positive I have not adequately put into words what the Killers mean to me. But how can I? To really know, you would have to experience my life as a confused teenager in small town South Dakota. You would have to hear this band on the radio for the first time and just know that they were talking to you. No matter your struggles or frustrations, someone out there understood. And that means more than I can ever say.