CD of the Week

THE KILLERS Sam's Town Vertigo *****

Sam's Town Vertigo *****

What's the quickest route from Las Vegas to Asbury Park, New Jersey? For The Killers, it requires nothing less than a quantum leap, a radical reshifting of their horizon, and the risk of losing the pop audience who bought five million copies of their debut album, Hot Fuss. But rock'n'roll is all about risk-taking, and Brandon Flowers has stuck his bow-tied neck out with this loosely conceptual record about what it means to be a young American in a time of flux and fear. Using U2's epic vision to pay homage to Bruce Springsteen may be their biggest gamble, but the band get away with it through sheer swaggering aplomb, and make each song pay off in spades.

There's been a dearth of truly great American rock albums since the age of Nevermind and Doolittle. While Sam's Town may not quite usher in a new golden age for American rock, it can certainly point the way out of the synth-pop doldrums in which many US bands are stuck. Opening with the strident title track, The Killers look homewards with lines about being "born on the 4th of July" and Londonwards with a colliery band coda. When You Were Young chimes like Springsteen on a 10th Avenue freeze-out, and penultimate track The River Is Wild even borrows that ascending guitar progression from Born to Run. But The Killers' ear for an epic melody runs away with the prize. Bling (Confessions of a King) and Bones toy with Queen's bombast, while Uncle Jonny is a stomping tale of a cocaine-snorting relative. My List starts as a simple piano ballad, but turns into a big anthem, and Why Do I Keep Counting is a Bowiesque adventure that ends with a Life On Mars-style note.

Quantum leap? They've bloody gone into hyperspace.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist