Not too long ago in this column I talked about second albums by emerging bands and how those second albums often determine if a band’s first album is a mere fluke or if the band is going to be around for the long haul. With that daunting reality, most bands play it safe on their second outings and either repeat the formula of the first or just tweak it a bit. However, even though The Killers in 2006 were certainly not the staple they are in American music today, they were brave and willing to venture out of the familiar territory of their first release for their sophomore effort “Sam’s Town.”
Dubbed by many as a concept album, (Simply including tracks called “Enterlude” and “Exitlude” probably alone merits the “concept” tag.) “Sam’s Town” is an attempt at a Springsteen-esque slice-of-life montage centered around the band’s home base of Las Vegas. The charm and intelligence of The Killers’ concept is that the characters and places are not varnished with the typical Vegas gloss, but instead are seedier and shadowy. The main charactrer in “Uncle Johnny,” for example, is an anti-hero, cocaine-using trainwreck. Yet for all the underbelly-ness of “Sam’s Town,” there are some optimistic tracks like “When We Were Young” and “Bones” that lend much needed tenderness to The Killers’ sometimes coarse tapestry of the “un-seen” Las Vegas.
At the time of its release, many considered “Sam’s Town” to be a bit of a disappointment compared to the band’s powerful debut. Then and now, however, this listener appreciates the effort The Killers made to create a piece of work that not only paid homage to so many of their influences (Springsteen, U2 and Queen, to name a few), but also told the story of a famous town in a not-so-famous way. For patient listeners, there’s a level of abberration in the story telling on “Sam’s Town” that really works when given the chance.
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