Sin city slickers 

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critics are fond of saying the Killers don't sound like they're from Las Vegas, but that presumes that there is such a thing as a "Vegas sound." Unless you count the kitschy opulence of Liberace and Wayne Newton, the closest thing this gambling oasis/musical desert has to a sonic signature is the non-stop, concurrent chiming of 100 casino slot machines.

Fronted by Anglophile synth-pop veteran Brandon Flowers, the Killers registered first in the UK, with their fusion of disco and new-wave pop earning favorable comparisons to the Strokes and Franz Ferdinand. In truth, though, the Killers recall no one so much as INXS. They're a dance-friendly, vaguely funky rock band with a sultry vocalist and a veneer of hip cynicism. As with INXS, you can tell they've listened to all the right bands, and studied all the time-tested rock-star moves, but they're too fundamentally shallow to make you care.

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Granted, if your only exposure to the group has been to the driving single "Somebody Told Me," you'll be excused for getting sucked into their vortex. Though the song is as essentially pointless as the rest of their crunchy fluff ("Somebody told me/you had a boyfriend/who looks like a girlfriend/that I had in February of last year"), it's a great tune with a performance that never lets up. It establishes the potential for the Killers' formula; the rest of this album establishes its limitations.

In search of an identity that will stick, they succumb to the most hackneyed of all white-rock gimmicks, bringing in the legendary Sweet Inspirations to lend gospel harmonies to "Andy You're A Star" and "All These Things That I've Done." The effect is wildly incongruous. It's as if Flowers thought that proximity to soul would make him soulful by association. Then again, he probably thinks that living near the Bellagio makes him European.

By Gilbert Garcia


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