If The Killers suffered from “difficult third album” syndrome they certainly didn’t show it. Having established themselves globally with 2004’s widely-acclaimed Hot Fuss, the Nevadan quartet consolidated with 2006’s dynamic Sam’s Town and breezed through 2008’s Day & Age to score a third consecutive multi-platinum smash.
The band had already pushed the boat out with Sam’s Town: a record full of grandstanding, arena-sized anthems which frontman Brandon Flowers sold to Entertainment Weekly as “the album that keeps rock’n’roll afloat.” However, raising the bar remained paramount for the charismatic Las Vegas rockers and they were already hard at work on new tracks while they still touring to promote Sam’s Town during 2007.
To help realize Day & Age, The Killers approached Stuart Price, a zeitgeist-surfing production wunderkind whose credits also included Take That, Madonna, and New Order. The two parties’ paths had previously crossed as Price (under his Jacques Lu Cont soubriquet) had remixed The Killers’ global smash “Mr. Brightside,” but when Flowers and company met the producer in London to discuss his helming some tracks for their B-sides anthology, Sawdust, they ended up working together on a demo of a promising new song entitled “Human.”
Featuring the enigmatic chorus “Are we human, or are we dancer?”, which Flowers had adapted from a quote attributed to US writer/journalist Hunter S Thompson, the infectious, synth-swathed “Human” became Day & Age’s signature single and one of The Killers’ most widely-acclaimed tracks. Described by Flowers as “a cross between Johnny Cash and Pet Shop Boys, if that’s possible”, “Human” was the catalyst for a courageous collection of songs which showed that The Killers had no intention of repeating themselves.
Kicking off with the strident “Losing Touch” (a smoldering critique of the illusory nature of fame), Day & Age gleefully proffered a diverse assortment of treats ranging from the suave, Roxy Music-esque pop of “Joy Ride” to the lilting, Caribbean-flavored “I Can’t Stay” and the world-music-tinged “This Is Your Life.” Exhilarating, widescreen epics “Spaceman” and “A Dustland Fairytale,” however, showed that the band hadn’t eschewed the grand designs of their previous record – something Flowers freely acknowledged when he told the NME that “A Dustland Fairytale” was “more like an extension of Sam’s Town, and not a reaction to it.”
Day & Age immediately attracted rave reviews, including PopMatters’ declaration that it was “the quartet’s boldest album.” Interviewed by MTV at the time of the album’s release, Brandon Flowers and guitarist Dave Keuning elaborated further on Day & Age’s eclectic sonic palette, with Flowers suggesting, “People are bound to put a tag on it, but for us it feels very fresh – plus our fans are getting more diverse and growing up with us.”
Flowers’ observation proved to be extremely astute. When Island/Def Jam first issued Day & Age, on November 18, 2008, the album debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and shot straight to No. 1 in the UK, rewarding The Killers with their third consecutive British chart-topper. With a further push from a world tour, including sold-out shows on six continents and prestigious US festival headline slots at the likes of Lollapalooza and Coachella, Day & Age eventually went quadruple-platinum in the UK and shipped well over three million copies worldwide. It remains an important milestone in The Killers’ career and a disc that’s more than worthy of rediscovery.
“It sits well with our other albums,” Brandon Flowers said in a 2009 Rolling Stone interview. “It’s obviously a little more on the pop end of things, it’s not quite as masculine as Sam’s Town, but I like it. ‘Spaceman’ is such a playful tune and ‘Human’ is one of our best recordings so far. But I don’t think we’ve made our best album yet – and it makes me happy to know [that one’s] still out there.”