I got into The Killers because a girl I liked in the eighth grade dug them. It seemed smart to check out what kind of stuff she was into and I was pleasantly surprised to discover I liked them all on my own. In fact, I ended up liking them a lot more than she did, as a few years later she had moved on to stuff like Little Wayne and I was still digging The Killers. The group’s debut album, Hot Fuss, is hands down their best. It plays a lot like a greatest hits record might but, of course, they hadn’t yet produced anything besides this yet. The album had four singles that all received a pretty good amount of radio play, with the lead single, “Mr. Brightside”. burning the brightest of these, as its glam rock inspired music video received a ton of play back in the day.
In 2001, Las Vegas area vocalist Brandon Flowers was looking to join a band and guitarist Dave Keuning answered a newspaper ad shortly after arriving in Vegas from his native Iowa. The pair began composing songs and recording demos. Early in 2002, the duo’s new group began playing live shows andÂ experimenting with erratic sounds. By the end of the year, drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr and bassist Mark Stoermer joined as permanent members of the quartet and the group began making recordings by sneaking into the band room at UNLV (where Vannucci was a student) at night.
This album’s influences are pretty clear. If you tossed British New Wave, David Bowie and the Smashing Pumpkins into a pot, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Killers stepped out of the oven at the end. The album came together over the course of 2002 and 2003 A good deal of Hot Fuss was written in Vannucci Jr’s garage or the band room at the University he attended. The group would sneak in at night to practice. Eventually, The Killers rose through the band ranks to sign with the newly formed Independent record label Lizard King Records in the UK. The rest, as they say, is history.
Hot Fuss by The Killers
|Released: June 7, 2004 (Island)
Produced by: Jeff Saltzman & The Killers
Recorded: Dave Keuning’s Apartment, Las Vegas & The Hearse, Berkeley, CA, 2002-2003
|Track Listing||Group Musicians|
|Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Smile Like You Mean It
Somebody Told Me
All These Things That I’ve Done
Andy, You’re a Star
Change Your Mind
Believe Me Natalie
Everything Will Be Alright
Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Hot Fuss begins with “Jenny was a Friend of Mine” and a mix of odd sounds that evoke police sirens and helicopters before the guitar kicks in earnestly. This is a great opener and the first song on the album about murder, as Flowers voices a man accused of killing his friend. The song lets you feel just how new and raw The Killers were as a band in the best way possible. This is a lot of what makes the album as a whole work.
After this the album jumps to the iconic guitar riff opening of “Mr. Brightside”. Is there a better song to sum up the melancholia of dating someone you think is cheating on you? I don’t think so! The original music video for the song is an odd black and white noir work filmed in Staten Island New York. The re-made music video looks like someone puked glam over it but it’s pretty cool.
“Smile Like You Mean It” slows the album down a bit but there’s nothing bad about it. The song sounds far more evocative of that which they’d develop on their second album, Sam’s Town. This song again points to how raw the band was. That’s probably the biggest factor in their success explosion. They just soundedÂ more real than any other bands out there at the time. After this the Killers speed the album back up with the fast guitar scratches on “Somebody Told Me”.
My favorite song on the album is probably “All These Things That I’ve Done” just for the iconic bridge chant; “I’ve got soul, but Iâ€™m not a soldier”. The Killers are great at creating catchy lyrics that are profound yet mean absolutely nothing at all. I think it’s pretty great that they create their own phrases which fans can put their own meaning on in turn. This particular song changes and morphs throughout and never bores your ear.
“Andy, You’re a Star” takes away a lot of the flare of the previous song but gives it a grunge like sound that keeps the album fresh. None of the songs on Hot Fuss fail to surprise and excite the ear. “On Top” has some electronic influences in the opening before the drums punch in. Since the song has to do with DJs, it is pretty fitting. It’s probably one of the lesser known songs on the album but it’s just as great as the others. Moving on to “Change Your Mind”, the Killers keep up the ass kicking with a pretty rad drum line and lyric;
If the answer is no, can I change your mind?”
The album closes out with the trio of “Believe Me Natalie”, “Midnight Show” and “Everything Will Be Alright”, with “Midnight Show” being the best of this lot because it simply jams the most. There’s also something inherently cool about a midnight show, since I attended a lot of them for movies in New York City. The last song, “Everything Will Be Alright” has a pretty slow, dreamlike quality to it that works well to put the album to bed.
One of the cool things about Hot Fuss is that there are a couple of different versions floating around depending on where you get it (this review covers the most well-known American version). In any case, The Killers hit a home run on their first up to bat with this album. They rode it all the way to critical and commercial success, with the only real down side being that the band has been unable to replicate its perfection in subsequent albums. Sam’s Town (2006), Day and Age (2008), and the latest 2012 release Battle Born all have some good songs them, but not nearly as many great ones as the debut album. That said, most bands have trouble crafting one album half as good as Hot Fuss and, in an era of bands stitched together by companies to produce the most pop hits possible this album continues to strike a chord for bands that started in garages. This one was good in 2004 and it’s just as great if not better more than a decade later.