One of the so-called New Wave revivalists that started their mission in the mid-2000s, The Killers, have proven to be one of the most prolific and enduring of their batch. Amidst the ever-changing musical landscape for the past few decades, the Nevada-hailing band remains anchored onto its trademark sound—a blend of guitar-oriented Heartland Rock, synth-adorned Post-Punk New Wave, and vocalist Brandon Flowers’ impassioned and distinctively throaty voice.
Truly productive, The Killers have just released their sixth album in August of 2020, Imploding the Mirage; and yet here they are again, obviously recharged, with a new record, titled Pressure Machine. Released on Friday, August 13, 2021, via Island Records, Pressure Machine is a more introspective direction for Flowers and the rest of The Killers; after all, it is a concept album whose lyrical contents hark back to Flowers’ childhood in Nephi, Utah.
It opens with the piano-led “West Hills,” whose heartbeat rhythm and string orchestration are powerful enough to take the listener to the expanse of wherever the ballad is referring to. This is followed by the lyrically heartrending yet musically upbeat “Quiet Town,” which exudes Bruce Springsteen sensibilities—one of Flowers’ heroes and occasional music collaborator. Immediately returning to slow balladry, the acoustic plucks of “Terrible Thing” and the slow buildup of “Cody” are rustic and familiar.
A mid-album highlight, “Sleepwalker” is a New Order–reminiscent stomper, courtesy of the returning Dave Keuning’s melodic guitar lines. Another plucked-guitar acoustic beauty, “Runaway Horses” features on backing vocals the American Singer-Songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. “In the Car Outside” is another engaging New Wave rocker that resonates faint echoes of James’s “Ring the Bells.” Following in the same infectious energy, the Sam’s Town throwback track “In Another Life” ensures the presence of Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr.’s strong and steady, four-on-the-floor beats. And then there is the melodramatic, desert-wandering song, “Desperate Things”—tear-pulling, a future classic.
With Flowers’ ubiquitous and inspired falsetto, the penultimate title-track then pulsates its way into the heart of the listener. Finally, he and the rest of The Killers wrap up their well-oiled machine with “The Getting By,” an apt closer—slow, soulful, and string-laden.
In the troubled era the world is still currently in, Pressure Machine is a welcome refuge, especially for those who are seeking emotional comfort from their own past. Its only aspect that some fans might find unappealing is the narration that introduces each of the tracks. However, to the understanding and sophisticated, it will surely be appreciated; after all, the spoken introductions are part of the overall storytelling concept of The Killers’ latest work, which will someday be hailed as one of the gems that mark the tragic time of the pandemic. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Pressure Machine 4 out of 5 stars.