Friday, 20 April 2012

The Killers - Human

Human is the lead single from The Killers third album, Day and Age. It was the first song recorded for Day and Age, and actually came from the sessions for their B-sides and rarities collection Sawdust. Brandon had written the song prior to meeting Stuart Price who was working with them on a number of Sawdust tracks and when Stuart said to Brandon his studio was free after dinner, they decided to go and record Human. By Brandon's own admission, the song never actually changed that much during the recording process, as when they recorded it initially they knew it sounded like a strong track. Stuart Price would then go on to produce the rest of Day and Age. Brandon described the song as sounding like a hybrid of Johnny Cash and Pet Shop Boys, and from what I've read I think a lot of people think it has a Pet Shop Boys sound to it, Neil Tennant has said that many have said that to him also. Coincidentally, Stuart Price ended up working with Pet Shop Boys too so I do wonder if Human acted as a catalyst for that given that they are fans of The Killers. Having said that t I can't say I could imagine them performing this track so I don't think it sounds overly like a Pet Shop Boys song. I used to love the synth work, but the song itself made no sense to me and that did put me off it somewhat. The most notable aspect of the lyrics is its confusing chorus which has garnered much debate: "Are we human, or are we dancer?". Not only does that not make grammatical sense, but some have also questioned whether or not Brandon says "denser", which I initially used to think too. After some research though, the song actually makes a lot more sense and I can appreciate it a lot more. The song is based on a quote from Hunter S. Thompson (known for writing Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas) which is "We're raising a generation of dancers". The quote I think is a social statement that people are afraid to fail to comply with the norms of society and would rather be one of the crowd, which I think is emphasized by the line "sometimes I get nervous, when I see an open door.". On the subject of Hunter S Thompson, some have questioned is the line "wave goodbye, wish me well, you've got to let me go" a tribute to him, given that he committed suicide in 2005. The second verse deals with the subject of changing values in society, Brandon has said that the references to devotion were to do with the way that his parents were married for 45 years but in changing society this, among with other values like "grace and virtue" seem to be lost. Really you could say the song is a social critique on a variety of levels. In some ways I do think that's a possible similarity with Pet Shop Boys as it is one of the most common things they do in their work: songs that are danceable and catchy enough to sound commercial but when you research into their lyrics there's a lot of hidden depth. In any case, I think this was a great song for lead single as its got the right balance of commercial appeal and depth and showcases a very strong album!

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