When You Were Young: Sam’s Town at Ten.

Put simply, The Killers changed my life. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Much like how artists like Elvis and The Beatles influenced culture through their music, the Las Vegas band have influenced my fashion, my haircuts and even my makeup – yes, I had a ‘guyliner phase’ – over the years. John Lennon may have once claimed that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”, but, in my eyes, it’s The Killers who have always felt closer to some kind of religious experience (yeah, I said it) through their style(s), passion and pretty-much-perfect music.

I can vividly remember my introduction to the band. Bizarrely, it was through the Kerrang! music channel (I was heavily into ‘hard rock’ at the time) where I first saw the music video for Somebody Told Me. It was instant love, cemented further after borrowing (essentially stealing) their debut album, Hot Fuss, from my older brother.

Fast forward two-years and I was once again sat in front of the television, waiting to see a Killers music video. By this point, I was eighteen, about to go to University, my music tastes had completely changed – for the better, I may add – and I was obsessed with The Killers. My family and I had invaded my grandmother’s home for the summer, and at around ten o’clock on Channel 4 one evening, the brand new song to be taken from the band’s upcoming album was about to get its premiere.

To say I was left in shock by When You Were Young is an understatement. This wasn’t The Killers as I knew and loved them, but something entirely different. Gone was the British influence of their first album – the band were themselves often mistaken for Brits when they first came on the scene – in favour of Springsteen-esque American rock. The band were louder, Brandon Flowers’ voice was deep and gruff, and, perhaps most shocking of all, the frontman now had a moustache. 

I wasn’t sure what I thought of it, but I knew I liked it, and it didn’t take long until my whole family, grandmother included, to became obsessed with the song over the following few weeks. That song became the soundtrack to my summer, a summer full of late days that consisted of nothing other than discussing music and life with my best friend. We were a very contemplative couple of young adults.

On October 2nd of 2006, The Killers’ new album, Sam’s Town, finally came out. Anticipation was high after Flowers claimed it would be “one of the best albums of the last twenty-years”, and however cocky the singer-songwriter was being at the time, it certainly didn’t disappoint. From second one, as the title track kicks off proceedings with an explosion of drums, synth and guitar, it was immediately clear that the band meant business. 

After a brief ‘Enterlude’ (“We hope you enjoy your stay”) the rest of the album is relentless with its ferocious rock songs, pausing briefly for contemplative ballads such as the beautiful Read My Mind and My List. There really is never a dull moment through the entire album however, with each track feeling like it could have been a chart-topping single. Whether it’s the fantastic finale to Bling (Confession Of A King) or the flawless chorus line of Bones, each individual song on Sam’s Town feels like a huge anthem that’s just waiting for a stadium to house it. In this respect, the album is as close to perfect as you can get.

Of course, not everybody agreed, and the album proved very divisive amongst critics and fans alike (their follow-up, Day and Age, proved more so). Now, ten-years later, I think most people would acknowledge that it’s a great album that isn’t quite the classic that Brandon had hoped. Personally, Sam’s Town would probably sit in my top ten favourite albums of all time – it is, arguably, their finest album to date – not just because of the songs, but because of what they mean to me. 

For The Killers, their second album feels very much about claiming their identity and going back to their roots. As Brandon sings in When You Were Young, “Sometimes you close your eyes and see the place that you used to live. When you were young”, and it’s in that sense that Sam’s Town is an almost-transportative experience for me. It reminds me of my family, my best friend and my home. For that alone, it’ll stay with me for decades to come. 


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