I can be such a sucker for hype. Sometimes, it turns out to be entirely true, like in the case of Death Cab For Cutie or The Arcade Fire; other times, you’re just left with a band posturing in order to live up to their ‘Best band of the year/decade/ever!’ title when the material doesn’t. And that hype is exactly the reason why, even after being decidedly neutral on the Las Vegas synth-rockers androgyny-soaked lead single, “Somebody Told Me” (“Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year”), the album somehow ended up in my possession, bought completely of my own vocation.
The album starts out promising enough with “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine,” where lead singer and keyboardist Brandon Flowers first establishes his fascinations with anything 80s and murdered girlfriends. Okay, strange combo, but with Flowers’ impassioned vocals, pounding drums and bass weaving in and out of each verse, the track ends up working without sounding too much like it was lifted straight from a Duran Duran album.
Next up is the second single, “Mr. Brightside,” the band’s ode to voyeurism set to a relentless rhythm, distorted guitars and its memorable chorus: “Destiny is calling me, open up my eager eyes -- I’m Mr. Brightside.” It got way too much airplay, but take my word for it, it's enjoyable within the context of the album.
The first side of Hot Fuss is easily where the best material lies, rounded out by “All These Things That I’ve Done.” The track starts out with just wistful vocals and keyboards, then throws in guitars and drums before switching directions entirely and ditching the music in favor of a gospel choir singing, “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier.” Not being overplayed adds to its appeal for me, but it’s also one of the most surprising and distinctive moments of the album.
Unfortunately, things start to turn sour at the halfway mark. “Believe Me Natalie” drags on for too long, floundering from Flowers’ delivery and only saved by the prominent drums while the album ends on a low point with its aimless, veering closer “Everything Will Be Alright.” Mostly, the strength of Hot Fuss ends up having to rest in a few tracks; it’s striving for Las Vegas-esque bigness, but some of it is too flat to get there. It’s worth a few listens, but not entirely deserving of the surrounding buzz.