What’s All the Fuss About: Hot Fuss, 15 Years Later

The summer of 2004 was a memorable time; the U.S. presidential election was coming up, the Iraq War was in full swing, the summer Olympics were being held. And, out of Fabulous Las Vegas, came Hot Fuss. Released by The Killers in June of 2004, blasted onto the alternative scene like a breath of air (not fresh, but thick with sweat and cheap perfume). Citing references like David Bowie and New Order, The Killers took a genre already changing and changed it even more; turning rock into 00’s club music with a nasty underbelly and surprising heart, and still remaining true to their rock roots.

 

This album has the tightest side A of all time. It hooks you from the start—helicopter-synth and a chugging guitar riff leading into a sexy bass line on “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” hold you entirely in their thrall. Brandon Flowers does his best Ian Curtis impression on the track, screaming “she said she loved me, but she had somewhere to go." I can say nothing that hasn’t already been said about “Mr. Brightside," one of the most influential indie rock songs of the year, decade, century, and of all time. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone age 13 to 63 who hasn’t heard it at least once; it remains in the Top 100 charts in Britain to this day. Teenagers still jump on beds and dance around rooms and drive cars too fast while screaming “it was only a kiss, how did it end up like this." “Mr. Brightside” also introduces the theme of jealousy found throughout the album. “Smile Like You Mean It” encapsulates this. While it’s not as danceable as the tracks preceding it, it hurts more; the guitar itself seems to cry, as does Flowers, wailing over the outro, lamenting that “someone will drive her around, down the same streets that I did." The message is clear: if you’re going to smile through this pain, at least smile like you mean it. Then “Somebody Told Me” comes to both mock and partake in 00’s club culture. Tongue-in-cheek and homoerotic, Flowers feverishly pants that he’s been “breaking my back just to know your name”. But the true crown of this side is “All These Things That I’ve Done”; it has guitar and bass and drums and a choral bridge that seems to lift you on its wings, proclaiming “I got soul but I’m not a soldier." Jealousy and shame rear their heads despite the upbeat instrumentals; Flowers says his wrote this song about growing up Mormon and feeling as though he has betrayed his faith by his life choices.

 

Side B, while perhaps not as well-known, is special in its own right. “Andy, You’re A Star” is a gritty, bitter song that also makes use of a choral bridge; the homoerotic subtext of the album is deeply apparent here as Flowers confesses that Andy is a star “in nobody’s eyes but mine”. “On Top” has a melancholic guitar melody right out of some forgotten Smashing Pumpkins song. It’s also definitely about an illicit relationship (this narrator and his shame and guilt and flings!); but the bridge offers some more regret, Flowers pleading with his love interest to get their “eyes off my pride tonight." “Change My Mind” is definitely the sweetest of the album; the guitar croons, and Flowers sincerely asks “if I have a chance, would you let me know?” “Believe Me Natalie” is perhaps the most underrated Killers song, period, and Ronnie Vannucci’s superb drumming is the standout of the track. But Natalie isn’t a character like Jenny and Andy before her; Natalie represents growing up, and how you lose people when you do, and there’s just nothing you can do about it, because this is “your last chance to disco”. “Midnight Show” returns to the crime of “Jenny” from earlier, showing the murder the narrator is accused of; Flowers screams “drive faster, boy” like his life depends on it, asking “if you can keep a secret, I can keep a secret”. “Everything Will Be Alright," the final track, is synth-heavy and crooning; Flowers is “dreaming ‘bout those dreamy eyes." Perhaps the narrator has finally learned to let go of that guilt, and fear, and has understood he will be ok. 

 

Maybe that’s what the Killers wanted to say with this album all along; that after everything humans go through in their whole lives, just let go, and understand that everything will, in fact, be alright.