Here's a fun riddle: what do you get when you combine Talking Heads, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Queen and the country of Jamaica? The Killers' third LP, Day & Age. Echoes of past influences have always made it easy to evaluate the Las Vegas band's music based on what it's not. What it is, and continues to be here, is a meshing of so many styles first created by other bands that it's hard to credit the Killers with anything uniquely their own. That said, the new album is the band's strongest yet. Front man Brandon Flowers tones down the Freddie Mercury-isms in his voice, but his lyrics follow his usual habit of mixing muddled attempts at poetry with overused clichés. In "Human," he sings, "Are we human, or are we dancers?" as though there's some secret meaning in his ridiculous question that endows it with impenetrable gravity. The song never even attempts to answer the query.
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The Killers seem to have abandoned their faux-vaquero image of 2006's Sam's Town, preferring instead a calypso-infused space rock like Caribbean hippies sitting in with David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust's Spiders from Mars. Bland lyrics and bongos notwithstanding, "Joyride" sounds like a rejected track from Bowie's Station to Station. "I Can't Stay" is textured with harp glissandos, maracas, steel drums and a brass section. Dance beats and layer upon layer of synthesizers saturate the entire album. The band's musical point of view is so unclear, it might as well have sampled every note from someplace else. Nevertheless, this overall mishmash makes the album more thematically coherent than previous Killers efforts.