There’s been a lot of talk about The Killers’ seventh studio album Pressure Machine. It’s different. It is their version of Springsteen’s Nebraska. I am not arguing with most of the opinions but I would say that for me it sounds like an entire album built around the characters of Springsteen’s song The River rather than the more fictitious album Nebraska.
The River is Bruce looking around at his family and those that he grew up with. He is looking at the dreams and promises that they are made in their everyday lives.
Pressure Machine is about such. It’s about those ordinary small town things of work and family. It is about hopes and fears and promises and whether they will be broken or not. It is the everyday ordinary life in the midst of the American dream of things and happiness that consumes.
There are also echoes of U2’s Songs Of Innocence idea of going back to childhood to find inspiration for a record. Like Bono there are hints of Flowers’ own childhood in these songs, particularly how his parents taught him how to work hard whether a blue collar worker or a songwriter.
In the main though Flowers is writing little four minute vignettes of fiction. That’s where the Nebraska comparison comes from. However, unlike Springsteen, who set his characters in a far away State, Flowers locates scenes around the Utah town of Nephi where he grew up. There are even little speeches from Nephi before each song. Initially irritating I got over it and see them now as part of the artistic deal! Flowers does a great job at continuing to tell their stories.
The other obvious influence for me is novelist Flannery O’Connor. If Flannery had fronted a neon lit up Las Vegas stadium filling rock band this might be her best work. Pressure Machine is God haunted from the very album cover art - 3 crosses across, behind a barbed wire fence on a bleak an American landscape.
The lyrics are God haunted too:
And if there is a judgement
When He pulls my chart
He'll reject my actions
And He will know my heart" (Quiet Hills)
In this quiet town, they know how to live
Good people who lean on Jesus, they're quick to forgive
In this quiet town (Quiet Town)
Around here, we all take up our cross and hang on His holy name
But the cards that I was dealt will get you thrown out of the game (Terrible Thing)
So who's gonna carry us away?
Eagles with glory-painted wings?
We keep on waiting for the miracle to come
Pour down the mountain like a heaven-fed stream (Cody)
Leave the mountainside cold and bare
But when the longer days of sun appear
They'll be rising like an answered prayer and I know that (Sleepwalker)
Like runaway horses, it's a long way back home again
When every step is a silver prayer in the face of a hard wind (Runaway Horses)
We got a place with a fence and a little grass
I put this film on the windows and it looks like chapel glass
But when she turns, it's like the shadow of the cross don't cast
No blessing over our lonely life (In The Car Outside)
Hope'll set your eyes agleam
Like four feet dangling in the stream
But the Kingdom of God, it's like a pressure machine
Every step, gotta keep it clean (Pressure Machine)
Green ribbon front doors, dishwater days
This whole town is tied to the torso of God's mysterious ways (Just Getting By)
God drenched! And all of it has me asking big questions. What is the miracle that we all want? Is it anything like God’s dream for us? Or is is all caught up in some other futile happy materialist dream?
I guess for fans looking at our perfect Killers’s live set lists we might hurry to pick out songs from other albums. Not that I can’t hear crowds singing along from this one too -
Everyone is afraid of losing
Even the ones that always win
Hey, sleepwalker, when the mountain comes back to life
It doesn't come from without
It comes from within (Sleepwalker)
Or that phone lights won’t be swaying in the dark as Phoebe Bridgers guests on Runaway Horses. In A Car Outside too seems as British 80’s popped up and stadium ready as anything on any other record.
Pressure Machine might always be the black sheep in The Killers’ shiny indie rock catalogue. Yet if I had to listen to an album all the way through, it might end up that this one is the most cohesive, slow burning, long lasting album of all!