Zoe Wiebe ‘25/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“It took me twenty years to write what I know about on this record” laughs The Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers as he explains the inspiration behind the band’s new album, Pressure Machine. Originally from a small town outside of Las Vegas, The Killers use Pressure Machine to explore the experience of small-town living. The Killers’ seventh studio album deviates glaringly from their previous six, not only thematically, but also sonically.
Diverging from their usual high-energy rock sound, The Killers create a more mellow atmosphere throughout most of the album, often utilizing violin and harmonica and opting for less drums. However, for Killers fans who love their usual music, songs like “In the Car Outside” and “West Hills” provide that traditional sound. The more sober tone of the album perhaps signifies the bleak nature that can encompass small town living.
Pressure Machine explores this dismal atmosphere with themes like suicide, domestic abuse, and drug use. “Terrible Thing,” for example, explores the thoughts of a boy contemplating suicide as he deliberates upon what future exists for him in his hometown. “Desperate Things,” on the other hand, describes a police officer who engages in an illicit affair with a woman whose husband abuses her. While these themes may seem darker than usual, The Killers’ roots shine through the gloom of the album. “Desperate Things,” for example, adopts a narrative style about a murder much like the band’s so called “murder trilogy,” “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” “Midnight Show,” and “Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf.”
The album is also more personal than the band’s previous albums. In an interview, Flowers explains that many lyrics on the album were derived from experiences or anecdotes from growing up in a small town. “These are people that I know,” he announces. For example, he recalls his mom “telling people how my dad never wakes her up in the morning” and that his dad “was like a little mouse.” This story made its way into the song “The Getting By” on the album.
Another personal dimension to the album is the voice recordings at the beginning of nearly every song. The Killers obtained the audio tracks through an NPR reporter who recorded people from Flowers’ hometown, Nephi, Utah. The band felt that this record was a sort of “audio documentary” of the town, and these recordings of stories and thoughts from real people living there add to that documentarian atmosphere. While these long intros certainly seem skippable, each one provides a set-up and tone for the song it precedes. For example, before “Quiet Town,” the voice on the audio track says:
“Oh yeah, oh, no, the train, the train
Every two or three years the train killed somebody
Every two or three years, yeah
Everybody knows about the train, okay?
You hear it constantly
I, I think the train is a way to find your way out of this life
If you get hit by it”
This quote hints at the train as a means of suicide, which alters the meaning of the first lyrics of the song:
“A couple of kids got hit by a Union Pacific train
Carrying sheet metal and household appliances through the pouring rain
They were planning on getting married after graduation
Had a little baby girl, trouble came and shut it down”
These audio tracks provide interesting insight into small-town living and into where The Killers are from.
Pressure Machine might disappoint fans who love The Killers for their rock anthem songs like “Mr. Brightside,” but those songs can’t exist without the origins of The Killers; and that is what this record is.