When I’m listening to the first half of this album, which is the half that contains the three Really Likes, I’m all about four clowns. Get into the back half, though, where all the Mehs reside, and I’m super into three clowns. Furthermore, while I’m listening to each half, I manage to convince myself that, no, I can’t give it the rating the other side is asking for. Which makes this a perfect candidate for 3.5 clowns.
Lead singer Brandon Flowers described this as Sam’s Town as seen from Mars, and I don’t think I can do any better than that. The band has kept their Springsteen, Southwest feel that they pushed on Sam’s Town, but instead of a hot, dry, dusty day we’ve got a slicker, cooling, refreshing night with a wider variety of instruments (“I Can’t Stay” has harp and steel drums (both via synth I think) as well as some sax, all done pretty well). Call it Springsteen mixed with Duran Duran.
Nothing blows you out of the water, but for a band that’s pulled out three pretty distinct sounds on their first three albums, it’s impressive how competently they’ve pulled off each of them. There isn’t a one I went bonkers over, but they all provide an enjoyable listen. Adding to that enjoyment is that it’s the same band leading us through these different musical journeys. It’s hard to believe this is the same band that did “Mr. Brightside.”
One unfortunate aspect of this disc is the production. I don’t know if Stuart Price just didn’t get what the band was going for, or if he helped them go for the instrumentation and songwriting but he, or the engineers, couldn’t get the sound right to pull it off. It’s not full enough. The vocals are too far forward in the mix; that usually doesn’t bother me, but when it’s at the expense of the mids and lows in the band, then it does. The lows are too quiet and the mids are indistinguishable, just kind of all awash in each other. It ends up sounding thin and brash at times.
Over at one of the old places I gave Sam’s Town the same rating as this disc, though I remember liking that one quite a bit more. Given my current resistance to half-clowns and my at-that-time love affair with 3.5 [clown] reviews, I think I might give it a full four now. I let my rating stand, I’m just saying, I think Sam’s Town was probably better, though, again, this is quite good.
Really Like: “Losing Touch,” “Human,” “A Dustland Fairytale”
Like: “Spaceman,” “Joy Ride,” “I Can’t Stay,” “Neon Tiger,” “Good Night, Travel Well””
Meh: “This Is Your Life,” “The World We Live In”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Losing Touch
- Human – “Are we human or are we dancer”
- Joy Ride – a new wave vibe, not really funky but kind of feels like a funky thing
- A Dustland Fairytale – scratch sound. Born To Run era Springsteen
- This Is Your Life – some “oh way” lion sleeps tonight vocals to start things
- I Can’t Stay – Kind of a Caribbean feel. Some steel drums that I’m pretty sure are from a synth. Then there’s a sax.
- Neon Tiger
- The World We Live In
- Goodnight, Travel Well – works as a big album closer, but not one you want to hear on its own. Takes over half the track to kick in.