The Killers, Pressure Machine

The barbed wire on the cover makes it plain: there's no fun to be had here. Frankly, quarantine pop as a whole has turned out to be a real collective downer at exactly the time we don't need to be any more depressed, and this album, like a vinyl Eeyore, just wallows in it. We're a long way from Hot Fuss when the headliner track is a gay teen circling suicide ("Terrible Thing"), or songs of the family black sheep ("Cody"), or domestic violence and adultery ("Desperate Things"). It's not all grim ("Sleepwalker" is reflective without being overwrought) and it's not all molasses (the crazed Cure vibe of "In the Car Outside" has a beguilingly unbalanced appeal), but it feels to me like Brandon Flowers wanted to rip the scabs off his hometown and record the bleeding and the bruises, right down to the spoken word interludes, and turned in the disc as such. As catharsis or social commentary, it's understandable. Heck, I've spent some time in the purgatories of eastern Utah myself, so I get it. But this album is too parochial, too ponderous, and dare I say it, too preachy. Records like this are where keeping it real goes wrong. (Content: F- and S-bombs in "In the Car Outside.")