Retrospective Review: The Killers – Hot Fuss
There was a period in the noughties (crap word, I know) when, once again, the fusion of music and mascara became all the rage in guitar bands.
Those old enough to remember the late 70s and early 80s music scene will recall that this wasn’t a new phenomenon. Many musicians in the past have dabbled with the war paint — including Bowie, Bryan Ferry, David Sylvian and Adam Ant — none of which were averse to the odd trip to cosmetic departments back in their day.
Of course, all this grooming and smartness spread, and before you knew it, anyone with a synth and a vaguely silly name — such as Spandau Ballet or the so-good-they-named-them-twice Duran Duran — were doing their bit to ensure that Avon ladies up and down the country could soon afford to retire to a small country residence in the Cotswold’s.
Unlike those pioneering acts of that earlier era, bands in the 2000s (a better-sounding name) had to rely less on originality and more on the hooks in their songs and, of course, the image — all without looking like an Adam Ant tribute act.
Some were quite successful; others were not.
I remember reading an interview with a band called The Bravery, who fell into the latter category and soon disappeared from the shelves having briefly threatened a worldwide cosmetics shortage. As it turned out, their threats to dominate the music charts were never quite fulfilled.
However, one only has to revisit The Killers’ 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, to see the perfect fusion of hooks and looks.
Where others tried to be dour and sparse, The Killers added a touch of musical glam and swagger to proceedings, and where some would add a dollop of mascara and a gallon of lip gloss, the Las Vegas-hailing outfit would simply don a touch of blusher and a sharper suit.
I can think of no other album where every song counted and every song made me smile — it was a truly landmark album and one that still gets regular listens. The fusion of guitar-driven music, touched with a light sprinkling of synth and Brandon Flowers’ powerful vocals, was a recipe for success. The Killers were a rare breed and one band that could make good on the hype bestowed upon them.
Singles such as ‘Smile Like you Mean It’ and ‘Mr Brightside’ were instantly memorable and captured the flourishing indie-guitar-synth sound prevalent among bands belonging to that scene. Much like Moby’s album Play, Hot Fuss was finding an audience in every generation of music fans, and while this may have upset early fans of the band the success garnered from the album was richly deserved.
And they could play live, too. Having seen The Killers support U2 in Cardiff in front of tens of thousands of fans, it was clear that U2 had to pull out an equally impressive set to match what had gone before them.
Hot Fuss went on to sell about 7m copies worldwide.