It's entirely likely that your average radio listener who spilled drinks at dance night to the spastic sounds of "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me" had no inkling that the man behind these tales of romantic backstabbing and seething jealousy was secretly yearning to unleash a crooning soul steeped in deep American myth. A cursory listen to the long-player which spawned said hits, the Killers' 2004 Island debut Hot Fuss, would have betrayed that deep mythology, especially within the murder balladry of "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and "Midnight Show." The coda of the gospel-tinged "All These Things I've Done" — "I've got soul/But I'm not a soldier" — reveals Flowers's inner struggle with his religious faith, and his need to square it with a modern life, in a pummeling fury of pure ecstatic joy.
Although the album was hugely successful, most seemed to have missed the serious side of Flowers, which goes some way toward explaining the critical shock that came with the 2006 release of the sophomore Killers album, Sam's Town. The record still contained the powerhouse anthemic heft to which fans were accustomed, piloting singles like "When You Were Young" and "For Reasons Unknown" to charts worldwide. But gone were the Duran Duran sonic references, replaced by a kind of prairie gothic that celebrated Las Vegas and its denizens in rough-hewn odes that buoyed details of down-trodden lives with an atomic-powered sense of hope.
"My parents were very optimistic people," Flowers explains, "and it definitely found its way not only into me, but into the songs I write. And as dark as the songs might be, there's always got to be redemption and hope in there. To be honest, I think that that's a great thing to be feeding the world."
At the time, critics disagreed: when Flowers, flush with the rush of confidence that comes with creating what one thinks is a masterstroke, told Giant magazine that Sam's Town was "one of the best albums in the past 20 years," voices piled on to claim otherwise, and Flowers has been a magnet for critical mockery since. "There's definitely something about me, in particular, that critics don't like. And I'll evaluate these criticisms, and take them seriously. But then it comes time to write another song or another album, and I dunno, I just can't do it for them, you know?"
The Killers' 2008 follow-up to Sam's Town, the slightly more electro-pop Day & Age, saw the band's music become even more ubiquitous, thanks to the colossal success of lead single "Human." For those who were iffy on Flowers and his earnest take on the whole rock-star thing, the song's fluttering synths and innocent-yet-bizarre chorus of "Are we human/or are we dancer?" was too much. Flowers clearly registers the criticism, but has a different take on the role of the rock star in society. "You know, all the people that we put up on pedestals always have some kind of problem, some big traumatic experience in their life that made them that way. And I didn't have any of those. And that seems to throw people for a loop sometimes."