Our First Favorite Album: 'Hot Fuss'
This week, Daily Music Writers are looking back on the first albums they ever loved. Today, Regan Detwiler and Rachel Kerr remember The Killers' Hot Fuss.
I first heard “Mr. Brightside” when I was nine years old, on my home town’s locally owned alternative station. It quickly became a car ride highlight, and soon my mom bought the Hot Fuss CD from Barnes & Noble. Months later when I heard it on the local pop station, I felt that first twinge of angry dejection at the injustice of hearing a song that you discovered out for the whole world to hear. (Thus began my life as an obnoxious alternative music snob.)
My nine years of life thus far had been fairly — OK, incredibly — innocent. I was that kid who wasn’t allowed to watch PG movies (don’t even think about PG-13). It’s no surprise that “Mr. Brightside” sparked my excitable curiosity: I didn’t know what “taking a drag” was — dare I guess? This, and lines like “But she’s touching his chest now” and “He takes off her dress now, letting me go” made my imagination wander to places I had never been.
This mysteriously and darkly ambiguous lyrical style paired with The Killers’ perfume-stained velvet rock carries through the whole album, which I listened to religiously well into the next couple of years. Memorizing every word and every melody, I indulged myself in imaginative gymnastics in an effort to decode the messages waiting behind the shadowy phrases, like in “Believe Me Natalie”: “Forget what they said in SoHo, leave the oh-no’s out” — what could they have said in SoHo? What were the oh-no’s?
As a sort of musical coming-of-age, Hot Fuss not only appealed to more explorative aspects of this stage in life, but also to the turbulent emotions characteristic of pre-adolescence. Lying alone in my room, a pathetic puddle of self-pity after my first real fights with my parents, I must have listened to “Everything Will Be Alright” a million times over the course of about two years. But at least I had “All These Things That I’ve Done” to pick me back up.
This was also my best friend’s favorite album at the time, so when our families made the 13-hour drive to South Carolina that summer, you know what was in the CD player. We drove through the Rockies with the sun up and the windows down and let Hot Fuss play three times through. Now when I hear a song from this album on the radio, I can start singing the next track on the album as soon as that one ends.
— Regan Detwiler
It’s December 2004 in Las Vegas. I’m at the Rubio’s, six minutes away from my house with my grandma, eating a chicken burrito off the kids’ menu. At the table next to me is Ronnie Vannucci, eating a quesadilla, alone. For all of you who weren’t obsessively in to The Killers, Ronnie Vannucci is their drummer and for all of you who grew up east of the Rocky Mountains, Rubio’s is a Mexican fast food chain.
“That’s the drummer of the band that sings ‘Mr. Brightside!!!’ ” I whispered to my grandma. And of course, she knew what I was referring too because, in 2004, even 60-year-old women couldn’t avoid that song. She urged me to say something to him — “tell him how much you like his band!” — but she didn’t understand. I didn’t like his band, I loved his band. And would I even say?
Should I start by apologizing for even recognizing him? I mean, how often does the drummer of an up-and-coming band get stopped in public places? And by a nine-year-old, no less? How did I explain that’d I memorized all their faces and that Brandon Flowers, the lead singer, was my first real crush?
Or do I just begin by thanking him for Hot Fuss, the band’s debut album, my first favorite album, full of Joy Division decadence and Depeche Mode moods? Or even further, for my yet realized love of ’80s pop-rock music, whose origin could only later be traced back to years of listening to Hot Fuss and their follow up album, Sam’s Town, on repeat?
Do I mention that I, like the band, am also from Las Vegas? Or maybe explain that I noticed the influence the city had had on the album, from its grandiose production to its lush lyrics, and wanted to thank them for capturing how it feels to live in Las Vegas in a sound? Could I tell him that I really identified with the “Sin City” cynicism of the album, despite being in elementary school and not having any idea what that even meant yet?
Was it weird to tell him that my dad had cried to “All These Things That I’ve Done?” To explain that the otherwise tough guy who openly discussed his atheism with his 10-year-old daughter had been deeply affected by the line “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” because it explained how he felt about grappling with faith and morality and the meaning of life.
Or did I just tell him that I liked his shirt because it was a really pretty shade of blue?
No, I couldn’t say any of these things to him, so I panicked and decided to say nothing. I let him continue to eat his quesadilla, while I nervously continued to gawk at him eating his quesadilla. When I got home, I went straight to my room and let Hot Fuss play over and over and over again, because how many times do you get to see the drummer of your favorite band at Rubio’s? Probably only once. And how many times to you get to have a first favorite album? Definitely only once.
— Rachel Kerr