The criticism of Sam's Town has centered around its obviousness - a mediocre rip-off rather than the homage to Born to Run it wants to be. The video for first single "When We Were Young" didn't help matters much, a melodramatic tragedy full of barstools, dusty hillsides and fallen women. Suddenly The Killers first album, Hot Fuss, looked just as false, a costume of new wave rather than synthy sincerity. All that dramatic posing in the "Mr. Brightside" video wasn't masking a broken heart, it was simply posing.
It's always been tough to judge where Brandon Flowers is coming from as a writer. The cringeworthy "Somebody Told Me" was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but then again where can we find good Killer's lyrics? Isn't the band's entire enterprise tongue-in-cheek? The "For Reasons Unknown" video certainly seems to suggest as much. Poking fun at the "Americana" image they apparently don't fit, as well as their lack of subtlety (sitting in open chairs right as he says "there was an open chair") and even Flowers' recently cited resemblance to Kernel Sanders - The Killers manage a mildly entertaining ride (which happens to sum up their existence as a musical act thus far). Is it fair to expect anything more?
Yes, especially when after writing one of the best pop songs of the decade you proclaim - with a straight face - your next album to be the best in 20 years. Ouch.