The Killers’ best-known song is probably the first single they’ve ever released, “Mr. The Good Side.” This song was released in 2004 with their debut album “Hot Fuss”. The choir shouts:
Jealousy, turning the saints into the sea
Swim in sick lullabies, choke on your alibis
But it’s just the price I pay, fate is calling me
Open my impatient eyes, cause I’m Mr. Brightside
After listening to the last two Killers albums, I found myself curiously coming back to this song, the chorus in particular. How could I have missed him mentioning saints and asserting that “fate calls”? Now, I notice that the speaker of the choir asks to have his eyes open – on the reality of pain and suffering in the world, but also on the path that is marked out for him.
On their last two albums, the Killers continue to revolve around faith and end up grabbing it, if not in completely solid form.
These same themes are explored in a much more openly spiritual and direct way in two albums released by the Killers in 2020 and 2021: “Imploding the Mirage” and “Pressure Machine”. The band’s vocalist and keyboardist, Brandon Flowers, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lives in Nevada and Utah. Songs on “Mirage” and “Pressure Machine” see him reflect on his upbringing, as well as the deeper implications of living in America with a religious worldview.
“Imploding the Mirage” has an ethereal album cover of cloudy figures on an American pastoral scene, and it starts with the song “My Own Soul’s Warning”. Its second stanza contains a number of rhetorical questions:
If you could see through the banner of the sun
In the eyes of eternity, like a vision coming down to you
Would you turn away?
What if he knows you by name?
What kind of words would cut through the mess of the whirlwind of those days?
It ends with the line “I just wanted to get back to where you are.” Without naming God up front, it seems to be about him. And that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Songs continue to revolve around faith and eventually capture it – if not in a completely solid form, at least its foundations. The progression seems to start with the soul’s warning, or realization, that what the speaker wants is to return to a relationship with God, and then slowly and steadily follows that impulse.
A song called “Fire in Bone” says:
When I came back empty-handed
You were waiting on the road
And you fell on my neck
And you took me home
After all i took from you
After all that i put you through
I am here.
Again, God is not named, but the speaker appears to be addressing him. And a change has taken place: with the statement “Here I am,” God can enter through the space that this statement allows. And he does. The following song, “Running Towards a Place”, begins with this stanza:
Give me the eyes that I can see
The good in my people and the bad in me
Give me the hands that I can lift
The weight of another who begins to drift.
It looks like prayer again, maybe even the breastplate of Saint Patrick or the prayer of Saint Francis. “Running to a place” also contains lines such as “What if we run to a place / Where we will walk together / The harshness of this life / Will it be overcome? And “Can you see the world / In a grain of sand? / Can you find heaven in a wild flower / Hold it in the palm of your hand?
He is someone struggling with what it really means to help build the kingdom of God on earth, and to hope for heaven “where we will walk as one.” Seeking answers, the singer wants to know that “the hardness of this life” will truly be overcome. And yet, paradoxically, a person of faith knows that one cannot know this. We can only have faith that it’s true.
He is someone struggling with what it really means to help build the kingdom of God on earth, and to hope for heaven “where we will walk as one.”
God is openly named in “My God” (along with Weyes Blood). The speaker “comes back into your arms” and pleads “from your mouth to my heart”. The speaker asserts that “great love cannot be underestimated” and that “control is overestimated”. It sounds like surrender to me, especially since the song ends by repeating a line three times: “My God, it’s like the weight has been lifted.” While it may not be convinced in some ways, this voice wants to at least believe in God and keep the faith.
The final song is “Imploding the Mirage”. Throughout the songs that came before it, the “mirages” of a life without God were pushed, pushed. They can’t stand it and so the faith is recovered, even if it is in a fragile form.
Enter “Pressure Machine”, the album the Killers released earlier this year. The cover is a stark contrast to “Imploding the Mirage”, but its songs explore the same themes more deeply. The cover of “Pressure Machine” is entirely in black and white, depicting three crosses behind barbed wire. And the album doesn’t shy away from the hard material; domestic violence, drug addiction and overdose, adultery, disenchantment with the American dream, and economic hardship are all covered.
The first song, “West Hills”, begins with recorded voices of real citizens of small towns, and the first stanza is:
I was born here in Zion, God’s own son
His stories of the Holy Spirit and his bloodshed never scared me
As they bowed their heads on Sunday
I cut through the hedges and the fields
Where the light could put its hands on my head
In the western hills.
The song tells the story of someone who goes to jail for having “possession of those hillbilly heroin pills” and yet it still offers hope for redemption. The speaker sings:
And if there really is a judgment
When he pulls my card
He will reject my actions
But he will know my heart
And he’ll prepare a place for me
Where happiness instills
And the light lays its loving hands on my head.
If the characters in the songs from “Imploding the Mirage” have found faith, then this album follows them in their lives and explores what it really is.means living in faith, especially in small American towns, where Christianity has often been linked to the American Dream and belief in both is often put to the test.
These good people are not saved from pain and suffering. Why not?, the album wants to know.
There are many songs about death, which comes in various forms, even high-speed trains. These tragedies are presented and juxtaposed alongside the statement, taken from the song “Quiet Town”, that “Good People Who Lean On Jesus They Are Quick To Forgive / In This Quiet Town”. And yet, these good people are not saved from pain and suffering. Why not?, the album wants to know.
The song “Terrible Thing” is about a rodeo in town where the bull knocks a young boy to death, but at the same time, in the same town, the song’s first person narrator is about to kill himself. He sings:
Around here we all take up our cross and hold on to his holy name,
But the cards I got will take you out of the game
Hey mama, can’t you see your boy is wrapped in strangled silk
From this city of spider webs where culture reigns supreme?
I am in my room on the edge of something terrible.
How can faith save someone in this desperate place ?, the wonders of song. How can some things be glorified and other tragedies remain hidden?
In another song that takes into account the promises of God and life on earth, “Cody” asks, “So who’s going to take us? / Eagles with wings painted in glory? / We keep waiting for the miracle to happen. . Here faith is tested again and the speaker is still waiting for a savior. Prayers go unanswered, or are greeted with sadness or silence. And those who remain in the wake of suffering must decide where they stand.
Despite the everyday horror of these stories, there is also the mantra of “Sleepwalker” which echoes “Mr. The Good Side.” The song’s narrator compels another person – someone sleepwalking through life – to be awakened to the beauty of life even in the midst of death, decay, and devastation. “We have gathered wild flowers for you / You have to open your eyes,” he said. This line reminds me of Matthew 6:25, where Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, tells his disciples not to worry about what will happen to them, but to “consider the lilies of the field.”
The album doesn’t end in a high place, but it does keep a little bit of hope.
The album doesn’t end in a high place, but it does keep a little bit of hope. With one foot in a life of peacekeeping to “cook my eggs in bacon grease” and one foot to the sky, the song “Pressure Machine” claims that “Hope your eyes will shine / Like four feet dangling in the stream / But the Kingdom of God is a pressure machine. This recognizes that it is not easy to come to the kingdom of God and that enduring this life is a inevitable condition to enter. The narrator marvels at the speed with which time passes and also at our smallness when he says: “Sometimes I look at the stars / And I think of our small size / I sweat in the machine This implies that life on earth involves “sweating it out” – through pain, suffering, tragedy, banality – until we reach heaven. Perhaps some might see this as the cruelty of God Others will see it as a narrow door.
In 2004, the Killers mostly saw the ugliness of life through the jaded and frustrated eyes of “Mr. The good side. ”Still, they felt the pull of fate and plowed with their eyes open to come up with“ Implode the Mirage ”and“ Pressure Machine. ”In“ The Getting By, ”the final song of“ Pressure Machine ” , a more mature version of Mr. Brightside seems to say that people just need to show up every day and “hold on until all goes well.”
The song begins by commenting on one of God’s promises when it says, “You know, I believe in the Son, I’m not a backslider / But my people were told they would prosper in this land. This suggests that life has been tough and that prosperity, especially in small American towns, is still out of reach. He seems to throw it in the face of God to say:do you remember what you promised?
Yes, a person could be swallowed up by dwelling on what appears to be a broken promise. But — and here’s the hope— “maybe that’s what it takes to get up / In the morning and have another day, son / It keeps you where you should / So put on another day , son, and hold on until it’s okay.
Continue, the song invites listeners. They want us to stand where we are, rising every day, even when it involves unfathomable horror, for there is the hope of life with God on the other side.