Music Monday: ‘Pressure Machine’ by The Killers

Album cover and key art for The Killers' Pressure Machine album
Source: Island Records

The Killers are back with their seventh studio album, Pressure Machine, proving to us that you can never be too busy during a pandemic. Released just under a year after their last album, Imploding the Mirage, the band’s latest record is a concept album exploring Brandon Flower’s childhood in Nephi, Utah. The album also sees the return of guitarist Dave Keuning and the absence of bassist Mark Stoermer, who opted out due to COVID-19 concerns. The band also reunited with producers Johnathan Rado and Shawn Everett.

While Imploding the Mirage was certainly bombastic, the Las Vegas band’s latest work brings a more introspective, mature, and stripped-down sound that resembles folklore and heartland rock. From start to finish, Pressure Machine explores aspects of the small-town life–drugs, homophobia, religion, and abandoned dreams–with interview clips from Nephi residents preceding the many of the tracks. Describing the record as “dusty,” Flowers also insisted upon using analog recording in order to avoid mixing on a computer. 

The Killers, a photo by Danny Clinch.
Photo by Danny Clinch

Flowers’ storytelling lyricism is a standout, beautifully capturing the juxtaposition of strong-bonded communities in small-town that also emote a lingering feeling of isolation. The frontman’s use of imagery in “A Terrible Thing” is a great example for evoking the feeling of isolation as he sings from the perspective of a gay teenager contemplating suicide, alone in his bedroom while everyone else in the town is together. Although the album is riddled with themes of escapism in various forms–the train, drugs, suicide, and religion–it is also scattered with subtle feelings of hope. “Runaway Horses”, a gentle track featuring Phoebe Bridgers, addresses the struggle of fading dreams as a young couple marries, but “In Another Life”, that subtle hope persists. “Baby, I can vouch for the hopeless dreamer when you look at me.”

Highlights of Pressure Machine include the opener “West Hills”, which I’ve been playing nonstop since the album’s release; the title track, which showcases the lead singer Brandon Flowers’ underrated range; and “Cody’’ which brings back guitarist Dave Keuning’s magic. But it’s the closer “The Getting By” that really punches you in the gut as you hear the last moments of the song. Throughout the album, the train symbolizes incoming death. Although in the narrator in the song seems to be struggling with morale, the last line seems to indicate that he is keeping his faith, “But maybe it’s the stuff it takes to get up/In the morning and put another day in, son/That keeps you standing where you should/So put another day in, son and hold on ’til the getting’s good.” However, the ending of the song follows with the sound of the train, indication that hope is gone.

Pressure Machine grows with each listen. It may seem jarring and slow at first, but eventually you’ll find that it sneaks up on you out of nowhere. With each repeated listening, you’ll observe the intricacies of the album–its themes, the instrumentals, and the investment of the characters in the songs. It may take a few efforts, but it’s an album that is definitely worth it. 

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If you’ve had the chance to check out the album, let us know your thoughts below. Pressure Machine is out now.

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