FFWDing to the Best Part: “When You Were Young,” The Killers (2006)

When The Killers released  Hot Fuss in 2004, I thought at the time it meant bigger things for the landscape of popular music.  Not a full-on Nevermind-ish cosmic shift, but a change nonetheless.  With The Killers — and then The Bravery, the Kaiser Chiefs, etc. — I thought we were moving toward a new era of New Wave. Artistic and sometimes vague lyrics, a reliance on synthesizers, pretty boys in dapper outfits … as a (basically) lifelong Duranie, I was pumped.  And Hot Fuss was the first album in several years on which I liked every track.

And then came Sam’s Town. While not a certifiable “sophomore slump,” it sure was — for me anyways — lacking in the fresh excitement of its predecessor. It’s been a slow trickle downhill from there for Brandon Flowers and the boys from Vegas ever since.  But the opening track (what we would have called “Side One, Track One” back in the day) on Sam’s  is a good one.  A good one that has been tainted for me somewhat by the following story:

Right around the time of this song’s height of popularity (spring 2007), the world was active on the community blogging platform LiveJournal. This was right before Facebook had caught on with the masses.  So people would “blog” on LiveJournal, and the friends “following” them would comment.  It was a hotbed of meme activity, and one week, everyone was listing seven songs in heavy rotation in their iPods/Rios/MusicMatch libraries.

My friend Blair, her new boyfriend Chuck, and I all happened to put “When We Were Young” on said list.  Commenting in lyric form on Blair’s posting (below a post from Chuck), I merely quipped, “He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus.” At which point Chuck’s ex (who wasn’t in a terribly good place at the time), fired off “Blair, why did you tell [Lucy] that Chuck looks like Jesus?”

Lost in translation. And maybe that’s why she’s an ex.  KNOW YOUR CULTURAL REFERENCES.

Anyway, I think about that every GD’d time I hear this track.

Best part?  (Note, this isn’t accurate if just straight listening to the track, as the video contains a 90-second prologue of sorts.) At 3:47 (which would be ~2:17 on the regular single), the musical theme swells out of a subdued bridge and pulsates into the final choruses. It’s the type of moment in a song where you want to just push the pedal to the ground. Assuming I ever drove above the speed limit.

It’s this type of musical surge out of an island of serenity that’s often the “best part” for me, isn’t it? Soon these posts will just write themselves.



One thought on “FFWDing to the Best Part: “When You Were Young,” The Killers (2006)

  1. The trouble with musical revivals, like all echoes, is that the amplitude never equals that of the original. There’s been some great New Wave in the last few years– not only the artists you mentioned, but also La Roux, and Steel Train, and even Alicia Keys’ “The Elements of Freedom” album. But not as much as the years 1978-1984 saw. Still, it’s better than the great Swing Music Revival of 1996, which amounted to about five songs.

    I get a U2 vibe off of the steady 8th note power chord downstrokes here, as well as from Brandon Flowers’ quavery vocals. I’d not actually heard the Kaiser Chiefs, or heard of The Bravery, before now, but a brief stint on YouTube tells me why you mentioned them in the same breath as The Killers. They seem worth picking up a Greatest Hits.

    As for the best part: Half the fun of song analysis for laymen like us is inducing the components that make music tick: As Leonard Cohen famously observed, “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift.”

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