If there’s still a world to end after 2020, the best-case scenario is we look back on this week as the peak of Coronavirus Mania, the same week that The Killers chose to release a single whose chorus repeatedly howls “I’m throwing caution” at a time when people are legitimately going to the gym in surgical masks. So that happened.
Long ago, Brandon Flowers proved himself an expert winner of bets involving the ability to make a hit song out of words that barely function as reality, like “riding on the back of a hurricane,” “do you want to feel my bones,” and, most famously, “are we human, or are we dancer?” That’s why he’s a rock star, undeterred by normal constraints of language or physics or anything that would get in the way of whatever tidal wave his inevitably massive hook and bombastic, ‘80s-Springsteen-indebted arrangement is riding. So, yeah, his probably political forthcoming album, Imploding the Mirage, and Coronavirus-timed first single is about dispensing with caution altogether. The man excels at artifice; fake the news until you make it. (Actually, their previous single, 2017’s “Run for Cover”, mentioned “fake news” by name.)
Of course, “Caution” isn’t actually political. It’s not even all that Springsteen. The soft-focus synth bass and flat four-four drive put it more in line with Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” or even Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”, with lyrics that only could’ve come from our generation’s most outsized glam-rocker: “Let me introduce you to the featherweight queen,” the song opens, referencing Paul Simon in passing (“Never had a diamond on the sole of her shoes”) and hitting pay dirt with “She can go straight from zero to the Fourth of July.” Utter nonsense like “She got Hollywood eyes, but she can’t shoot what she sees” is top-shelf surrealist swagger like peak Steven Tyler or Lennon’s “Come Together”. In fact, the most political line in the song may be the simple, Vegas-raised analysis, “Momma was a dancer and that’s all that she knew/ ‘Cause when you live in the desert, that’s what pretty girls do.”
For Fans Of: Just about every artist who’s vowed through song to “get out of this town” or “burn it down” or both, from John Mellencamp to Gin Blossoms to Flowers’ many ‘80s faves. There is so much rock ‘n’ roll dedicated to settling a score with one’s birthplace! And yet, you can’t take The Killers out of Vegas or Vegas out of The Killers. Did I mention The Killers? If you love them, you’ll love “Caution”, which ticks every box on the “yup, it’s them” checklist: The belt-like-no-tomorrow chorus, the canned synth-strings, the enormous drums.
Best Moment: The one true surprise of “Caution” is the full fucking minute of guitar soloing it goes out on. Sound familiar? It should. That’s former Lindsey Buckingham behind the strings, and while most of it’s chopped in the radio edit, here’s hoping this assist is the first step in getting purely triumphant shredding back on rock (or even pop) radio. (At the very least, it’s a nice reminder of what the Mac’s missing these days.)
Where to Go From Here: Every Killers fan should already have a healthy-to-sizable appreciation for Bowie and Springsteen, and definitely a working understanding of Duran Duran’s hits, so maybe it’s time to brush off Bryan Adams’ Reckless or John Mellencamp’s The Lonesome Jubilee to really dig into the history of their ersatz versions of the big dogs? And it’s not necessarily a given that their American fanbase knows Pet Shop Boys’ virtually-perfect Discography: The Complete Singles Collection or Scritti Politti’s squelchy masterpiece Cupid & Psyche ’85 front-to-back, so maybe they can deepen their synth appreciation?
Other Great Songs This Week: King Von’s trap tall-tale “Took Her to the O” (and its equally outrageous video) will stay in your skull as one of 2020’s most addictive rap songs. Said skull might explode, though, upon experiencing the down-the-rabbit-hole EDM meltdown of Gupi and Fraxiom’s “Thos Moser.” (and its equally outrageous video). Jhené Aiko, Miguel, and Future will mend your skull back together with the soothing and sinuous “H.O.E. (Happiness Over Everything)” (the video is not particularly outrageous, but it does include fire-breathing). And speaking of outrageous videos, Lil Yachty, Drake, and DaBaby’s “Oprah’s Bank Account” features Yachty as Oprah interviewing Drake about reaching his full L.S.C.: “light-skin capability” and DaBaby about “going to your bitch’s house and then going back.”
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