The Killers created something special on their new album Pressure Machine, particularly if you’re from Utah—or any small town in America. For Brandon Flowers, this album is very personal. It is very openly about his experiences growing up in Payson and Nephi. The opening lines on the first track on the album paint the perfect picture: “I was born right here in Zion, God’s own son.” Throughout the album, the lyrics flow like a love letter to Utah; but true love is honest, and Flowers doesn’t shy away from addressing the dark side of life in small-town America by addressing stories of opioid abuse, unrealized dreams, spousal abuse, and those who don’t fit the traditional mold. A chilling and haunting story about a gay teen contemplating suicide on the song “Terrible Thing” is one of many highlights on the album. “Hey, mama, can’t you see your boy is wrapped up in the strangle silk of this cobweb town where culture is king? I’m in my bedroom on the verge of a terrible thing.”
According to Flowers, the songs are both about friends, family, and his own personal experiences in Nephi—a town named after a prominent figure in The Book of Mormon (the scripture, not the hit Broadway musical.) Themes of love from his parents to the kindness of everyone in these small towns permeate the album.
Musically, this is a bit of a departure from what you might expect. There is a lot of Americana in this record; but matched with the poetic lyrics, it is exactly perfect. Flowers tells stories on these songs as masterfully as Springsteen. Think of songs like “Love Vigilantes” and “1963” by New Order that are told in the first person. You’ll hear influences by R.E.M. and U2 throughout. In fact, it makes me think of iconic albums like Out of Time and The Joshua Tree respectively.
And this is odd. Brandon Flowers listened to X96 during his teen years in the 90s living in Utah. In fact, he still is an X96 listener. It’s kind of weird to be reviewing the 7th studio album by a platinum-selling band fronted by a kid from Utah who grew up listening to me on the radio. He even attended X96 events like the Big Ass Show when the Violent Femmes performed. When he showed up to record an interview with Radio From Hell, he dropped by just like a neighbor visiting old friends. He didn’t show up with managers, record company representatives, and a full entourage. It was just Brandon and his kids. They played ping pong in our common area outside the studio while he did the interview with Kerry, Bill, and Gina. It was the most local, “Utah” thing I’ve ever seen from a guy that sells out arenas all over the world.
I grew up in Hooper, so this album feels like it was written just for me. I think everyone from a small town in Utah and throughout the country will appreciate this spectacular gem. But make no mistake, it is blatantly local. In fact, much of the album was written and recorded in Park City and Provo. I think you’ll savor every moment of Pressure Machine. It’s my favorite album of the year.