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Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Album from Three Weeks Ago: Day and Age by the Killers

For the better part of the last 12 years I have gone to/worked at an overnight all boy summer camp in the Pocono Mountains. The camp, Camp Shohola, is a truly remarkable place and I cannot recommend it enough (in case any of you are looking for a place to work over the summer/place to send your kid). One of the vast number of things that makes Shohola stand out is that it has something for everyone. There is every sport you can possibly imagine, all sorts of boating classes, the most awesome set of arts and crafts classes, and a whole computer camp. Where else could you play rugby, roll a kayak, learn to code, smith a ring, and practice your fastball in one day? A better question is “why am I writing such an obvious and shameless plug for the greatest camp ever? “.  This is a music blog not a parental advice blog (or a school for ants)! The answer is simple; Shohola had a class called Radio.

Shohola has a small FM radio station that broadcasts about a mile around camp. Campers who signed up for the radio class were taught how to operate the consul and put on their very own radio shows. The room is filled with old CD’s and records. As a camper every other day I would head into the studio to put on my favorite record, relax, and enjoy the tunes. There I learnt how to cue a record and an eight-track (yeah they had old stuff).  I loved it.

There was just one problem, unfortunately too few campers appreciated classic rock and only a handful of CDs there came out after 2001. There was thus a pile of five or six CDs that got played every class. As a camper it wasn’t too bad, but as a counselor, I taught a couple hours of radio a day. I grew tired of the songs that I liked on those albums and drew to despise the ones that I didn’t like. I will never forget those albums, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Oasis), The Green album (Weezer), Hot Fuss (Killers), The Fast and Furious soundtrack and Stadium Arcadium. This is where my pathological hatred for the Red Hot Chili Peppers was born (if I have to hear another song by them about California I will kill someone, probably Mark). Regrettably the Killers were a casualty; I have had an aversion to them for the eight years.  

I thought that Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me were good songs before I was forced to listen to them against my will every day for weeks on end. For a long time I couldn’t listen to anything by them without hearing those two songs instead. In my mind, they made two hit songs that annoyed me so they meant nothing to me. I decided to not like the Killers and avoid anything they ever played.

Then as all my stories about things I used to hate go (except for the Chili Peppers and Nevermind, I WILL NEVER LIKE EITHER), I soon found myself jamming to them. Early last year I was jamming out to Pandora when a song I never heard of before popped on. It was reflective, hopeful, poppy, and very catchy. I had just recently started to come out of depression so the song really spoke to me. So when I looked at what it was, I was completely flabbergasted. The song was Human by the Killer from the album Day and Age. I downloaded it and chocked it up as a guilty pleasure, a song that I knew was by a terrible band yet I liked anyways. Once my addiction to the song ended, I did my best to forget that I ever liked it.

So three weeks ago I was desperately looking for an album, I had wanted to grab an album by Birds of Maya (the band that opened for Dr. Dog) but couldn’t find them anywhere. So I asked Mark what albums he thought were good. One of the albums he mentioned was Hot Fuss (it’s on his 42 on the 210 for our 210th). That statement reminded me of Human so I gave it another listen. In need of a new album and feeling more open-minded I decided to take a gamble. It worked out with Beast Moans, who is to say it wouldn’t work out this time? I got over years of prejudice and bought Day and Age.

Day and Age made me slightly alter my opinion on the Killers. I originally thought of them as a super poppy rock band that kinda sucked to a super poppy rock band that rocks. They have a super poppy sound that makes them really accessible, something that the inner hipster in me loathes. Yet that attitude is really stupid so I ignored my inner hipster and realized that the Killers are actually a great band. The Killers make music that mainstream audiences can enjoy without falling into the trap of being fake, unoriginal, and stale. They might not be my favorite band seeing as I like my music to be a bit off-kilter (hence my other column), but they have my respect.

When I write my weekly reviews I usually try to highlight the particularly good tracks. However, after writing an earlier draft of this article I noticed that I had mentioned every song on the album. That is because Day and Age is a pretty awesome collection of songs. Pretty much every song on the album could hold its own as single and do well on the charts. Losing Touch kicks off the album with bang that carries through the album. It sets the general tone of the album, a sort of glam rock inspired heavily pop infused rock. The whole album has the touching hopefully reflective attitude that touched me a year ago, with Human being its peak. Spaceman is by far the most poppy of the songs with a chorus that I either remember from the radio back in 2008 or somehow I managed to know it before I even heard it.

The whole album has a really epic feel. Everything in the work, from the cover art to the title to the atmosphere of the music, screams concept album. The start of Losing Touch and end of Goodnight, Travel Well, the respective start and end of the album, feel like the way a concept album would start and end. The references to the album title in several songs confirm that the Killers imagined Day and Age as a concept album. However, Day and Age is not a concept album.

Under closer inspection, I realized that Day and Age doesn’t centralize around a story or idea or anything in particular. The Wall chronicles a musician’s growing insanity, Sgt. Peppers is a concert played by the Beatles’ alter egos, and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is about “Ann Frank yada yada hipster stuff yada yada” or something like that (I’m just kidding that album is amazing, but the concept behind it is fairly diffuse). Nothing really ties Day and Age together besides the general aesthetic. I can’t help listening to this album and feeling it came so close to being truly excellent. It has all the building blocks for a great concept album but just doesn’t put them together.

That being said, failing to be a concept album does not make Day and Age bad, just not as great as it could be. What is left is a really good collection of songs that have a similar aesthetic and thus fit really well together. In this sense Day and Age greatly reminds me of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. Even though every song on Day and Age feels like it could be a pop single, the collection of them feels like an album. There is something to be said about listening to them together.

All and all Day and Age is a good album, it has some of the best songs that pop rock has to offer. If you like the genre you should really give it a try. This album has changed my opinion on the Killers, I might even give Hot Fuss another shot (seeing as it is supposedly a much better album). At the very least, I really cannot wait for their next album set to come out later this year.

Right before I posted this on the blog I checked Pitchfork and I regret to inform you that the Killers saxophonist Tommy Marth recently committed suicide. His work on Day and Age really helped create the general feel of the album. His sax really made I Can’t Stay soar. I send my regards to the Killers and Marth’s friends and family; this is a heartbreaking tragedy.

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