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Sawdust’ leftovers hold off hunger pangs

James Costa | Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Not quite the Killers’ third album, “Sawdust” is a compilation of b-sides, covers and outtakes garnered from sessions recorded for the band’s previous two albums – “Hot Fuss” and “Sam’s Town.” Like the gesture of other bands who offer recordings that never saw the light of day on an official release, the record seems geared more toward the real fans of the band who’ve been waiting to hear tracks and demos ever since the smashing debut of “Hot Fuss.”

Surprisingly, the CD holds up quite well on its own merits. While it does not have the flow or arch seen on “Hot Fuss” and especially on the epic, Western-themed “Sam’s Town,” it also makes no qualms about being concentrated far more on the individuality of the tracks. It’s an approach that works, since the band has an all-original third album in the works – which makes “Sawdust” a very hearty and satisfying appetizer to what is sure to be a deliciously innovative and forward-moving main course.

Early on, we get the track “Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf.” Never before released in any capacity, it’s a song that’s already been acquiring an almost legendary significance to fans of the band who know that it is the lost, first element of the “Murder Trilogy” on “Hot Fuss.” Now released, it fills in ahead of “Jenny was a Friend of Mine” and then “Midnight Show.” A supremely catchy and heavy rock number, it’s a welcome and practically essential addition to the collection of any Killers fan, because the gaps get filled in the story.

Arguably the band’s most popular album, “Hot Fuss” is extremely present on “Sawdust” with a bunch of tracks that didn’t quite make the final cut. These include “Under the Gun,” “Show You How,” “Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll,” “Who Let You Go” and “The Ballad of Michael Valentine.” Indeed, it’s almost enough for a “Hot Fuss EP.”

“Under the Gun” is a particularly strong song, and it’s hard to tell why it didn’t make the first album. Armed with an infectious and rollicking chorus of “Kill me now, kill me now, kill me now,” it’s a subtle anthem to those moments when you can’t be sure what’s going on, but know it’s bad.

The band makes a few blunders by adding covers to the “Sawdust” mix. It gets especially bad in its cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.” The new version just isn’t good and should not have been done in the first place – much less put on a CD for people to spend their hard earned money on.

It gets a little better on the cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo & Juliet.” However, Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers, doesn’t bring anything new to the seminally classic song. The tune isn’t bad, but it’s nothing new either. At best, it’ll introduce some new listeners to the brilliance of Dire Straits.

If anything, buy the album for “Tranquilize,” the opening track, which is also a duet with Lou Reed.

“Sawdust” is good. It’s not “Sam’s Town,” and it’s certainly not “Hot Fuss.” But, it has its moments, and certainly will whet your appetite till Flowers and company drop the next real album.

Contact James Costa at jcosta1@nd.edu