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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

For the love of ‘Pressure Machine’

If you have heard a song by The Killers, it probably played while you were at a party, when the host made the wise decision to blast “Mr. Brightside” so everyone could scream along. You may even be a little more familiar with the band than that, if you’ve enjoyed radio hits like “Somebody Told Me” or “The Man” while you were in the car. If you are not a fan of the band, I can almost guarantee you have not heard a single song from their 2021 album “Pressure Machine,” and I want you to know that is a genuine tragedy.

“Pressure Machine” was The Killers’ pandemic album, written following the postponement of their tour for “Imploding the Mirage,” a more traditional Killers’ project playing up their connections to Las Vegas (the “Mirage” in question is a hotel in the city). For much of their career, in fact, The Killers had made Vegas central to their persona as a band. “Pressure Machine” took an unexpected step away from that reputation, focusing instead on frontman Brandon Flowers’ hometown of Nephi, Utah.

Why, exactly, am I writing about this album now? It came out nearly three years ago, I have been listening to it for just as long and there have been no developments surrounding it since the deluxe edition’s release in 2022. Even so, I have found myself shuffling the album more and more lately, and I am amazed by the storytelling on it. Flowers brings a small, rural, religious town to life with his music. There is so much love present for Nephi, but there is also so much grief and shame. The album’s love songs are never about happy romances, just abuse and infidelity at worst and complacency at best. The stories of family are tinged with fears of death and drifting apart. All of “Pressure Machine” is haunted by religious trauma and the opioid crisis.

Nevertheless, the album is beautiful. With the record’s stripped back instrumentation, Flowers’ voice just shines. Not to mention the fact that the lyrics are worthy of being analyzed in any poetry class. Take “Desperate Things,” the song I might go so far as to call the album’s crowning achievement. In it, Flowers and his co-writer/producer Jonathan Rado tell the true story of a small-town scandal between a police officer and a woman he tries to help (although Flowers admitted to taking liberties with the ending in his version). The song is gripping, giving the reader insight into a doomed love affair until it reaches a climactic and chilling third verse. By the time the song reaches that section, the production is eerie and goosebump-worthy. Even though “Desperate Things” takes the traditional route of ending on a repeated chorus, the meaning of the words has been reframed. It is a masterclass in songwriting and musical arrangement.

I started thinking about this article right after watching the Grammys in 2024. I was upset that “Pressure Machine” had never been recognized, and it never would be. I was planning to compare it to the album that won for its likely category during the year that it would have been nominated, but I ended up not even looking up who that winner was. In the end, I just do not care.

Of course it made me bitter that there can be an artistic achievement like “Pressure Machine” and it can go without receiving the recognition it deserves. However, feeling this sense of sadness and injustice for overlooked brilliance made me question what I should care about. Was the album not a worthwhile undertaking because it received a middling Pitchfork review? Do I enjoy listening to it less because none of the tracks were Billboard hits? Does it matter that it never received a Grammy nomination? In all honesty, the answer to all of these questions is no. I am glad “Pressure Machine” exists because it is art, and it makes people feel something. It made me feel something. No awards show or critic can define its worth, because it was valuable from the moment it was written.

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