The Killers aimed for Bruce Springsteen and Queen on Sam's Town, but their arrows landed just this side of Meat Loaf.
There's a fine line between passion and melodrama. Springsteen owned his brand of working-class desperation before it became a rock stereotype, and Queen always sounded like a rock band whether they were playing arena anthems or operatic ballads. But it wasn't cheesy metaphors or layered harmonies that made The Boss and Queen so great; they were great in spite of those things. Like Meat Loaf, The Killers don't understand that.
When The Killers try to be Springsteen, their lyrical shallowness becomes obvious, and when they try to conjure Queen, their musicianship falls flat. The greatest moments on the album come when The Killers are just ripping into a simple, upbeat pop song. In other words, the greatest moments come when The Killers sound like The Killers.
Let's see. On the cover, we have an anonymous beauty queen whose inner ugliness is just begging to be set free, a run down trailer, and a big horn sheep. I imagine that fading beauty queens and crappy trailers are a dime a dozen in the lower-class squalor that radiates out from the Las Vegas strip (Vegas is The Killers' hometown), but the big horn sheep is the piece de resistance. When I think of Vegas desperation, the first thing that comes to mind is a big horn sheep. Not a meth lab or a pit bull or an old Monte Carlo with rusty, dented fenders, but a sheep. I actually feel kind of bad for Anton Corbijn, who had to take this ridiculous concept to fruition. His photos are gorgeous, but the context is pretty stupid.
Listen if you like: Remember when Duran Duran tried to be all serious and grown up on Notorious? If you liked that, you'll absolutely love this. Otherwise, this is good for fans of Interpol, Kaiser Chiefs, Hot Hot Heat, Metric, and all of the other new wave revivalists. Springsteen and Queen fans are better off checking out Marah and My Chemical Romance, respectively.
If it were food, it'd be: Campbell's condensed clam chowder. It's trying so hard to be serious that it almost loses it's simplistic appeal.