A horse dying, people taking opioids, a couple getting hit by a train – some of the subject matter in The Killers’ folk-driven new album Pressure Machine paints a sombre picture of the small town about which the record is written.
Naturally, Pressure Machine is an example of how not all musical nostalgia trips are necessarily positive ones. Written about lead singer Brandon Flowers’ hometown of Nephi, Utah, the record is more of a concept album than anything else, a musical description of some of Flowers’ memories and experiences growing up in a quiet town of 5300 people – although whether the band intended for the town to be depicted in as dismal a manner as I received it is perhaps debatable.
The record is atmospheric in some places, if a little lacklustre in others. Granted, the album begins strongly and, in its defence, West Hills is a passionate and melodically stunning track whilst the misty musical atmosphere and lyrics in the song Cody are also to be appreciated. However, I just wish I could say the same for the rest of the tracks, which consist largely of bland vocal melodies and less-than-imaginative use of folk instrumentation at varying tempo and dynamic levels.
Furthermore, the short interviews with current Nephi residents that are dotted throughout the album are, for lack of a better word, interesting. Take the one in Sleepwalker, for example:
‘I hunt elk and deer and turkeys. Just around here I’ve hunted antelope and growing up we had to be twelve before we could hunt and now they’ve lowered it to as soon as you pass hunter safety, you can hunt, so… I had to wait until I was twelve!’ Unless I’ve misunderstood this completely, I’m fairly sure I am not the first person – and neither shall I be the last – to be utterly baffled by the very idea of a twelve-year-old with a hunting permit but I will say no more.
Ultimately, whilst I understand what this album is attempting to do – and it isn’t without its poignance – it just doesn’t do it for me. Musically, the record is, for the most part, forgettable, save for a few glimmers of more memorable instrumentation here and there. The subject matter may be intense and the lyrics may be poetic, but I can’t say I will be listening to this album again in a hurry.