The Death of The Killers?

Please don't let genuinely great music go the way of the frat boy.
By Pauline Millard  Jun 13, 2005

The simon

On Saturday I found myself walking home from Grand Central station after escaping Gotham for a few hours for a barbeque in Westchester. It was a gorgeous evening, the kind where I watched people dine lazily at outdoor cafes with their little dogs at their feet. Toned men zipped by on rollerblades. Women wore tank tops and tied their hair into crudely designed knots.

And every single bar from Midtown to Murray Hill blared that damn Killers song, "Mr. Brightside."

I sighed. For those of you outside New York City, Murray Hill is a neighborhood that is so bland and gentrified you can just about smell the bourgeois malaise. It's full of girls named Rachel and Jennifah with degrees in psych and who work in PR. Under normal circumstances Daddy is paying the rent and the credit cards while the Emasculated Boyfriend takes care of everything else. It's the last place one would expect to hear anything in a bar apart from Dave Matthew's Greatest Hits or selections from the Reality Bites soundtrack. To hear The Killers wafting into the night air, to me, The Music Snob, seemed practically blasphemous.

Any music fan worth their salt can remember June 2004 when The Killers' album, Hot Fuss, was all the rage, at least it was south of 14th Street. Even a year later I can still put it on and just let it rip, no skipping songs or turning it off after the fifth track. I remember going to their show at the Bowery Ballroom on August 16th. I bought one ticket for myself a month earlier, went alone, and stared in awe as the band played every song from the album, almost in the same order. The room was packed and everyone cheered because they were the best thing we had all heard in a while. Hell, I think someone people even danced. Later that night I called a friend and said (without irony or the aid of alcohol), "Good lord, I haven't felt this way about a band since I was 12 and into New Kids on the Block."

Last year, I loved The Killers. I still do. I even started sending Hot Fuss, unsolicited, to all my suburbanite friends because they still thought that The White Stripes', Elephant could pass as edgy rock. (No! That was 2003!) That's why I get mad when I hear The Killers' played at yuppie watering holes with names like, "The Mad River Grille" and on Top 40 radio stations like Z-100, which manages to ruin every great song. (Look what they did to Franz Ferdinand's "Take me Out.")  I wanted everyone to hear the power chords of "Somebody Told Me." I wanted them revel in, "All These Things That I've Done."

Naturally someone is going to pipe up and tell me not to be such a whiner, that the point of music, and what these artists hope to achieve, is to reach the masses. That's why they perform, especially at places like Central Park's Summer Stage, as The Killers did that fateful Saturday night. But if I am allowed one pouty, foot stomping moment in the history of pop culture it is this: I don't want The Killers or "Mr. Brightside" or any of the other catchy tracks on Hot Fuss to go the way of the Frat Boy Theme Song. I don't want it blared at house parties at Syracuse University this fall, as "Under the Table and Dreaming" did when I was a freshman in 1995. I don't want 18-year-old girls with blow-outs and sparkly tank tops from Forever 21 to bop along to it as they share a cup of beer and swear to stay friends forevah. I want The Killers to stay cool, hip and danceable, classic but not ubiquitous.

I only bring this up because I've lost a few musical crushes to popularity and Grammy awards. A few years ago, let's say 2001, I got into a young guy with a guitar named John Mayer. Back then his fanbase was linked mostly via the internet and I could still get a ticket the day of the show. I remember seeing him play Irving Plaza on September 18th, exactly a week after the 9/11 attacks. The following February he returned to Irving Plaza and sold out both shows. I went both nights, sat in VIP for one, and almost burst with excitement when my friends and I befriended his drummer and were invited onto the tour bus at three in the morning. True, I spent most of the pre-dawn hours drinking Coronas and talking about Texas with Chester, Mayer's creepy bus driver, but it was still amazing and makes for a great story.

Which is why I get so prickly about The Killers. Just when I was getting tired of all the bare bones indie rock floating around, out they came with their great big walls of sound and copious use of eyeliner. Like a nefarious crack dealer, I loved turning people on to the band, knowing before they did about them. Sure the music had a strange '80s feel to it, but it was '80s with a twist, with sass, and I couldn't get it out of my head. Apparently the rest of the world is now onto me.

But let's get back to later that same Saturday night when I was in a bar on the Bowery that the aging uptown frat boys have for some reason discovered. The DJ, or maybe it was the house iPod, played, "Mr. Brightside." Later on at three in the morning as I was trying to peel my friend away from the bar, it came on again. That's when I saw the frat boys drunkenly cling to each other and shout the lyrics at the top of their lungs. I sighed, sad to see a Killers' song treated like some oafish rugby cheer.

I shrugged, changed into my flat shoes and headed home, where I turned on my Bloc Party CD. Surely it was safe to listen to them, at least for another year.