Guilty!: The Killers - Hot Fuss

by Jason Jackowiak.

Hot Fuss is a bit of an unusual case for a Guilty, not least of which because it's still bothering the charts and getting MTV all hot under the collar as I write this. A few things to remember about it, though, to help put things in perspective: it's well over a year old (more like 18 months, actually), has recently been re-issued with bonus tracks (a typically whorish move), and is blowing up a million Moto Rokr phones and Johnny-come-lately iPods as we speak. Or perhaps all of the above make it a perfect choice for a Guilty. I still haven't decided.

I purchased my first copy (don't ask) of Hot Fuss at Target for $7.99 shortly after its release, mainly because I liked the song I'd heard and the cover art was pretty fly for a white band. I didn't expect too much, but I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the shit out of it, and annoyed friends and foes (my neighbors) by playing it virtually non-stop for the better part of a month. Even an admittedly elitist fuck like me had to succumb to "Somebody Told Me"'s spazzy new-wave disco strut, and "Mr. Brightside"'s heart-on-the-sleeve faux-breakup bromides.

For the first few months, The Killers remained an almost underground sensation -- a lower-tier major-label act that white-belts were quick to dismiss in public, but secretly enjoyed in the confines of their kitchens. Then, one day, the whole thing blew wide open; suddenly The Killers were everywhere.

All of a sudden they were your little sister's favorite band, and Brandon Flowers's smiling/frowning mug started showing up on every media outlet known to man. MTV started playing the "Somebody Told Me" clip more often than Real World repeats, and sales (and downloads) of Hot Fuss hit the stratosphere. At the very moment the band became burgeoning international rock stars, the indie snobs who had once enjoyed them so much, and had, as I'd heard many times, dubbed them "the new Duran Duran", turned their backs on them. Of course, that's nothing new; just look at what happened to Green Day, AFI and Jimmy Eat World, or any one of a thousand bands that made the leap from obscurity to the Billboard charts. It was selfish of us to expect them to remain modest and demurely indie-centric -- they had a slicked-up major-label record, a tour bus and a stylist to pay for.

Really, albums like Hot Fuss aren't made for indier-than-thou types and critics. They're made for everybody. In terms of sheer musical implementation, songs like "All of These Things that I've Done" and "Smile Like You Mean It" are poleaxingly simple -- start with a dollop of snarky new-wave and a dash of bristling, dour rock, mix well, heat and serve. The Killers aren't so much about execution as attitude, and their po-faced wannabe Brit swagger and glammy keyboard hooks differentiated them just enough from the garage-rock pack as to give them widespread appeal. They fell out of the style machine dolled-up and ready to cook, and who could blame them? If someone was waving that kind of scratch (not to mention trim) in your face, you'd have signed on the dotted line just as quickly.

So yes, Hot Fuss is indeed a guilty pleasure, albeit a ubiquitous one. But really, most guilty pleasures are -- it's just that we choose to enjoy them in solitude, or at best, with several trusted confidantes. Chances are you've danced -- drunk or sober -- to these songs, and chances are you'll do it again rather soon. It may well have become the album that your not-so-hip uncle put on at his end of the summer BBQ, but that doesn't make it any less catchy, buzzy or enjoyable. And just think -- this time next year, we'll be saying the same semi mean-spirited shit about Fall Out Boy's From Under the Cork Tree and Panic! In the Disco's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out as the cycle of major-label funded, mindlessly enjoyable, gigantor-rock repeats itself in a host of utterly predictable ways.