The Killers

They were able to sell more than five million copies of their bottom-shaking, new-wave-flavored debut, Hot Fuss. But the Killers clearly learned a thing or two about playing the long odds in their Vegas stamping grounds, returning last October with a second effort, Sam's Town, that, surprisingly, owes less to old Duran Duran than old Springsteen. And yet it almost suits them -- much more than the facial hair. Brandon Flowers credits the Boss with making him fall back in love with America, and he's responded with a thank-you note that shamelessly revisits every trick in his book. There's not much hope of Sam's Town living up to the Flowers' idle boast that it's among the greatest albums of the past two decades -- not unless that list is several thousand albums long. But it's a good deal better than it looks on paper, playing to the back rows of those stadiums they're still not rocking with a sense of gravitas that's every bit as '80s as those silly synth-pop moves that made them famous in the first place.

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