If you’re familiar with the American band The Killers, it could be due to their popular ballad “Mr. Brightside,” which just might be the “Sweet Caroline” of the millennial generation. Their debut album, Hot Fuss, was the anthem of my college days, and Sam’s Town from 2006 was another musical triumph. Their new release, Pressure Machine, ends a recent cycle of hit-or-miss albums. Musically, it’s the strongest and most cohesive album since Sam’s Town, and lyrically, it has a poetic maturity that moves well beyond its predecessors. Pressure Machine is a heartbreaking album with moving themes woven throughout to highlight the struggles of small-town life in America and disenchantment with faith.
The Killers frontman, Brandon Flowers, was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this new album is the most Christ-haunted of all his releases. The reality of sin, God’s redeeming grace, wrestling with a loss of faith, feeling abandoned by God—Pressure Machine isn’t afraid to address the hard stuff.
This album is deeply anchored in a sense of place; musically, it draws on Americana, country, and folk traditions. Because it’s informed by Flowers’ personal experiences growing up in Payson and Nephi, Utah, it avoids falling into romanticism or some condescending voyeurism of working-class America. Pressure Machine paints a picture of a “quiet town / Good people who lean on Jesus / they’re quick to forgive” but also a “barbed-wire town of barbed-wire dreams.” You get that sense that these are complicated people and places that Flowers knows and loves as he reflects on “Green ribbon front doors, dishwater days / This whole town is tied to the torso of God’s mysterious ways.”