Think back to the moment when you first heard of The Killers. Was it with their song “Human,” as you debated whether the famous line in the chorus (Are we human, or are we dancer? ) was “dancer,” “dancers,” or “denser”?
Or maybe it was with their song “Mr. Brightside,” the lead single off of their 2004 debut album Hot Fuss that would then become the band’s most iconic song, named as the 48th best song on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the 2000s list.
Whichever song it was, one thing that’s for certain is that since their debut album, back-to-back, The Killers have created such a memorable discography.
And now, following the success of their critically acclaimed sixth studio album Imploding The Mirage just last year, The Killers have returned with their brand new album Pressure Machine.
Serving as a calmer and more character-analysis-driven album, Pressure Machine takes place in the small town of Nephi, Utah — the hometown of frontman Brandon Flowers and a community of 5,300 people.
“We were discussing [Brandon] moving to Nephi as a kid and being stuck in the middle of nowhere,” said drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. “And during Covid-19, it started to feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.”
All 11 tracks were crafted from the memories and tales of the people who impacted Flowers during his youth.
“I discovered this grief that I hadn’t dealt with, many memories of my time in Nephi are tender,” said Flowers. “But the ones tied to fear or great sadness were emotionally charged. I’ve got more understanding now than when we started the band, and hopefully I was able to do justice to these stories and these lives in this little town that I grew up in.”
In its 51 minutes and 22-second runtime, Pressure Machine not only tackles what it’s like to grow up in the American Southwest but also what it’s like to live there.
Beginning with “West Hills,” the first track introduces one of the many commentaries from the people of this small town. As it transitions into the first verse, the song touches base on the different cultures in Utah.
“There’s a whole subculture in Utah, in my experience, because we associate Utah with Mormonism. Having grown up there, a lot of people [outside of Utah] aren’t aware of people that don’t adhere to religion,” said Flowers for Apple Music. “There’s this whole thing of dirt bikes and four-wheelers and beer and finding different ways to find your salvation, other than in a church pew on Sunday. I took some liberties on the song, but it’s based on a real story.”
In the first verse of “West Hills,” (While they bowed their heads on Sunday, I cut through the hedges and fields where the light could place its hands on my head in the west hills) the lyrics go on to share that contrast of where some people meet for church and where others go on to search for other means of salvation.
But as the first track discusses other means of liberation, track two “Quiet Town” tells the story of two people who got hit by a train and the effect that a tragedy like this one has on a small town of close-knit people. When looking at the lyrics, that tragedy is noticeable, but the song takes a more hopeful route of a tragic story through its use of harmonica and upbeat tempo.
Track three, “Terrible Thing” goes on to share more of the personal stories of Nephi, Utah, and focuses on a gay teenager who’s pondering suicide.
With such powerful and emotional lyrics (Hey, mama, can’t you see your boy is wrapped up in the strangle silk of this cobweb town where culture is king? I’m in my bedroom on the verge of a terrible thing), the idea behind the song stems from Flowers’s time after high school and learning that one of his classmates was gay and nobody knew.
“Years after high school, you hear about a kid you went to school with that was gay and nobody knew. It’s such a cowboy, football, hunting country town,” said Flowers for Apple Music. “I tried to work through this person’s experience in town and how hard it must be to be in a culture like that. To not even feel safe to tell anyone who you are. Because when you were a kid or you’re in high school, you don’t have that courage, and I don’t blame them.”
The fourth track titled “Cody” is Flowers’s memory of his friends’ big brothers, taking the memories he has of them, and creating them into this one character.
“Sleepwalker” comes in as track five and is almost the rebirth of an individual. In moving back to Utah, Flowers shared with Apple Music that because he would experience seasons again, they were immersed in the anticipation of spring and a new life.
“I was able to use that sort of analogy for a person becoming a new creature and coming back to life,” said Flowers.
Track six, “Runaway Horses” features Phoebe Bridgers — who most recently featured on Lorde‘s single “Solar Power” — and touches base on how difficult life can be with the many obstacles it throws at an individual.
However, this song focuses on two people who think they are going to complete the race together, and end up going in different paths. But at its core, “Runaway Horses” touches base on how one always is trying to find their way back home.
“In The Car Outside” comes in as track seven and is another upbeat song on Pressure Machine that came together quite quickly, which is something Flowers notes as being one of those moments one is always waiting for.
“One of the reasons why you get in the garage in the first place is just this communal experience that you can share with people,” said Flowers for Apple Music. “And it was born really fast, and it was really exciting to be a part of that.”
Before the questioning of “what would life be like if…” is sung in track eight, “In Another Life,” the commentary talks about the opioid epidemic and how for some, it is used as escapism.
Though “In Another Life” may have an upbeat tempo like some of the other songs on Pressure Machine, unquestionably, it’s a sad song as one ponders what life would be like if things had turned out different.
Track nine, “Desperate Things” takes a dark turn lyrically and tells the fictional story of a police officer who falls in love with a woman who is a victim of domestic abuse. In its chorus, Flowers hauntingly sings how far one will go when one is in love and the desperate things they will do.
“Pressure Machine” which is not only the name of the album but also serves as track ten deals with the sad realization of how quickly we all grow up, especially for parents as they watch their kids grow up before their eyes.
The acoustic flair to this song and the accompanying violin strings toward the end do make this song very emotional, but it’s the first few lyrics in the second verse that pulls at one’s heartstrings (Keep the debt cloud off the kids, only sunshine on their lids).
Maybe it’s just me but I found that “Pressure Machine” shares a similarity with Taylor Swift’s song “Marjorie” off of her album evermore. There’s this longing but also an emotional realization that occurs not only in its lyrics but composition as well and I think that’s what makes this track stand out.
Ending on its eleventh track, “The Getting By” wraps up the collection of stories from the small town of Nephi, Utah. It deals with the hardships people may go through, but it also is the light at the end of the tunnel that signifies that there is still hope.
For The Killers, Pressure Machine is, in fact, a collection of stories, but it’s a retelling, and though each one is different from one another, the one thing that flows from track to track is that the sense of community is alive and at the forefront of this album.
The Killers’ new album, Pressure Machine, is now available to stream.