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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: The Killers, Evanescence and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, October 2, 2006

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The Killers “Sam’s Town” Island ***1/2

Give the Killers props for not denying the reality of their situation. After selling 5 million copies worldwide of its 2004 debut, “Hot Fuss,” the Las Vegas quartet is fully cognizant of the weight of its particular world on this sophomore effort; as frontman Brandon Flowers muses in the fi rst single, “When You Were Young,” “Can we climb this mountain?/I don’t know/Higher now than ever before/ Know we can make it if we take it slow.” Flowers and company make it — but hardly by taking it easy. “Sam’s Town” is big with a capital B, rock on a grand scale of thunderous soundscapes and anthemic intent. As on “Hot Fuss,” the Killers proudly wear their British New Wave infl uences on their sleeves — further accented by producers Flood and Alan Moulder, whose combined credits include icons such as U2, Depeche Mode and Smashing Pumpkins. But the band still manages to bring its own character into these 12 tracks, thanks to Flowers’ keening vocals and the interplay between his keyboards and Dave Keuning’s versatile guitar work. That makes “Sam’s Town” a sophisticated sonic metropolis populated by charging, full-throttle rockers such as the title track, “Bling (Confession of a King),” “For Reasons Unknown,” “Uncle Jonny,” “Bones” and “When You Were Young.” “My List” is an ambivalent love song with a sinister undertone and a nearly prog-rock arrangement, while “The River Is Wild” subverses its upbeat melody with jagged instrumental touches. It’s the kind of ambitious album rookie sensations need to make more often, and it puts the odds — in Vegas and anywhere else — in favor of the Killers’ continued good fortunes.


Evanescence “The Open Door” Wind-Up ***

Signer-pianist Amy Lee’s road has been rocky since Evanescence’s 2003 debut, “Fallen,” went six-times platinum. Songwriting partner Ben Moody left the band, she broke up with boyfriend Shaun Morgan of Seether, and guitarist Terry Balsamo suffered a stroke while making this album. At least Lee has plenty to vent about, and that she does on this angst-filled set of melodramatic goth/ industrial anthems. The good news is that it works in the band’s favor, yielding an album that’s even louder, fuller and more muscular than its predecessor. And including bits of Mozart’s “Requiem” into “Lacrymosa” is the kind of over-the-top touch you know you want from a band like this.

New and noteworthy

Trey Anastasio, “Bar 17”

(Rubber Jungle) — The former Phish guitarist builds his own pond, launching his own label with his latest solo album.

Beck, “The Information”

(Interscope) — The pop/rock/funk auteur finally releases the album he began working on before last year’s “Guero.”

Lindsey Buckingham, “Under the Skin” (Warner Bros.) — The Fleetwood Mac frontman takes an acoustic-oriented path, with only minimal drums, on his fourth solo outing.

Ray Charles, “Ray Sings, Basie Swings” (Concord/Hear Music) — A posthumous and perhaps disturbing fusion of archival Charles performances with new Count Basie Orchestra recordings.

The Dears, “Gang of Losers”

(Arts & Crafts) — The third album from the ambitious and inventive Montreal sextet.

The Decemberists, “The Crane Wife” (Capitol) — The hip modern rockers’ major label debut is based on a Japanese folk tale — but still rocks, they promise.

Flyleaf, “Flyleaf” (Octone) — One of the hottest and hippest hard rock debuts of the year gets some well-deserved national distribution.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3, “Ole Tarantula” (Yep Roc) — The idiosyncratic British rocker joins forces with members of R.E.M. and the Minus 5, along with a variety of stellar guests.

Jet, “Shine On” (Atlantic) — The Australian quartet has questions deeper than “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” on its second album.

Sean Lennon, “Friendly Fire”

(Capitol) — John Lennon’s youngest delivers his first album in seven years.

Monica, “The Makings of Me”

(J) — The more “adult” Monica enlisted Jermaine Dupri, Missy Elliott and Dem Franchize Boys to help on her latest album.

Sleepy Brown, “Mr. Brown”

(Purple Ribbon/Virgin) — The solo debut from the Atlanta singer-songwriter best known for his contributions to the OutKast.

Bruce Springsteen, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Deluxe Edition)” (Columbia) — One of the year’s best albums gets even better with new bonus tracks and new video material.

George Strait, “It Just Comes Natural” (MCA Nashville) — The country stalwart’s 34th album features his 53rd No. 1 hit, “Give it Away.”

Thunderbirds Are Now!, “Make History” (French Kiss) — Album number four from the frantic Detroit rock outfit.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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