Pressure Machine

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Pressure Machine
An image of a three crosses behind barbed wires and a chain drawing down the wires. The band's name and it's album is seen above the image in a white paper-like background within a square.
Standard edition cover
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 13, 2021
Recorded2020–2021
StudioBattle Born Studios
Genre
Length51:17
LabelIsland
Producer
The Killers chronology
Imploding the Mirage
(2020)
Pressure Machine
(2021)
Alternate cover
The Killers - Pressure Machine (Deluxe).png
Deluxe edition cover

Pressure Machine is the seventh studio album by American rock band the Killers. It was released on August 13, 2021. The album features the return of guitarist Dave Keuning to the studio with the band, after his absence on the previous album Imploding the Mirage, while bassist Mark Stoermer was absent due to difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during recording.[1] Jonathan Rado and Shawn Everett returned to produce the album.

Pressure Machine is a concept album based on lead singer Brandon Flowers' childhood in Nephi, Utah. The album features a guest collaboration from singer Phoebe Bridgers on the track "Runaway Horses".[2] Heavily influenced by Bruce Springsteen, lyrical influences also include The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson.[3]

Pressure Machine was a major critical success and charted well in a number of territories. It reached number nine on the US Billboard 200 and topped both the Top Rock Albums and Top Folk Albums charts, becoming the band's first album to chart on the latter. The album also became the Killers' seventh consecutive number one album on the UK Albums Chart. No singles were released from the album, although music videos were produced for "Quiet Town" and "Runaway Horses" as well as "The Getting By II" from the deluxe edition.

Background[edit]

Pressure Machine originated during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic when The Killers recognized that the planned Imploding the Mirage world tour would have to be postponed. Although The Killers briefly considered using some of the songs left over from Imploding the Mirage to start their next album, they instead chose to embrace the idea of a concept record based on Brandon Flowers's childhood. Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. described the choice by saying “But the sky was falling and we were hit with this emotion – especially Brandon. We wanted to do something following that feeling. I remember him saying, ‘Follow me down this road’. We put those songs to the side and embarked on something new and fresh. That’s what became ‘Pressure Machine’.”[4] Dave Keuning rejoined the band in studio after having completed his own solo album A Mild Case of Everything, released in June 2021.[5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Musically, the album has been described as Americana,[6] heartland rock[7] and folk rock.[8] Flowers decided to write all the lyrics to the album prior to writing the album's music, and in the process tried to reflect on his own childhood. For "Quiet Town" Flowers reflected on a teenage couple Tiffany JaNae Taylor and Raymond Leo Newton that were killed at a grade crossing accident with a Union Pacific train in 1994 when both were 17 years old.[9] “Here, 25 years later, I was still really affected by this train accident from when I was in the eighth grade... Two seniors from the high school were killed. I had seen one of them that morning. They had a baby. I didn’t go to grief counselling, they weren’t my best friends – but I was just shocked at how emotional I was when I started to write this verse.”[4] Other aspects of the lyrics were based on the opioid epidemic with the opening track "West Hills" narrating the story of an opioid addict in “possession of them hillbilly heroin pills.”

The lyrics for the song "Terrible Thing" were written from the perspective of a gay teenager contemplating suicide as Flowers described “There were kids I grew up with who I didn’t know until years later that they were gay... It must have just been so hard. I think the world is moving in a more positive direction and a more inclusive direction, but this was still in the 90s and people kept this stuff close.”[10] The song "Runaway Horses" featuring Phoebe Bridgers was partially inspired by her own cover of "Human" in 2019.[11]

For recording the band chose to use analog recording methods as Flowers described, "You can get caught up in having money, and having time, in studios, and laboring over something. We were definitely guilty of that. This was different. Shawn was not allowed to mix on the computer. We are mixing on a board, old school to tape, and we weren’t making a bunch of changes. We’re going to try to keep the dust on this thing." Sonically the band took inspiration from Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen, while also citing influences from Johnny Cash and John Prine; while the spoken word interludes were inspired by This American Life.[12]

Release[edit]

A deluxe edition of the album, featuring seven reimagined versions of three Pressure Machine tracks, was released on March 25, 2022. "The Getting By II", "The Getting By V" and "Runaway Horses II" present a more upbeat sound, while "The Getting By III", "The Getting By IV", "West Hills II" and "West Hills III" feature downbeat reinterpretations of the original songs. "West Hills III" is a gospel rendition of the opening track. "Runaway Horses II" sees Phoebe Bridgers removed from the mix.[13]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?7.5/10[14]
Metacritic79/100[15]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[16]
Clash8/10[17]
The Guardian[18]
The Independent[19]
The Line of Best Fit9/10[20]
NME[21]
Paste8.2/10[22]
Pitchfork6.6/10[23]
Slant Magazine[24]
Sputnikmusic5.0/5[25]

Pressure Machine has received generally positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has an average score of 79 out of 100, which indicates "generally favourable reviews" based on 22 reviews.[15] Neil Z. Yeung of AllMusic considered the albums' "matured focus on concept and mood [to save] the album from becoming an odd catalog misstep. Robin Murray of Clash felt that Pressure Machine "is perhaps the closest we’ve come to the emotional core of the group itself."[17] Damien McCormick of The Guardian called the album "their best album in years" and an "uncharacteristically reflective album."[18] Utah-based radio station KXRK praised the album for its authenticity in capturing life in rural Utah stating, "I think everyone from a small town in Utah and throughout the country will appreciate this spectacular gem. But make no mistake, it is blatantly local."[26]

Helen Brown of The Independent was less positive stating, "some of these lyrics would be better sold if Flowers could allow himself to stop the eyes-closed singing and adopt a conversational tone. A little more campfire crackle to his delivery would have helped lift these good short stories from the prettily glowing embers of forgettable and occasionally recycled melodies.[19] Steven Loftin of The Line of Best Fit praised the album for being different from the bands' previous albums and stated, "Pressure Machine isn’t made to compete with their jubilant, indie trenched past. It’s made to be an honest portrayal of a life that, in its own desolate way, holds a white-hot shine to those that in turn hold it dear."[20] NME's review stated regarding the album "It’s a homecoming of discreet intentions, not the pompous heroes return they’re likely used to – the modesty and subtlety suits them."[21]

Candace McDuffie of Paste felt that the "emotional turmoil [of the record] makes it a thrilling—and kind of frightful—experience from start to finish."[22] Shaad D'Souza of Pitchfork was also critical, stating, "Pressure Machine rarely escapes Flowers’ Brandon Flowers-ness: try as he might—and you do get the sense that he’s trying so, so hard—his usual wide-tipped brush can’t do justice to what should be finely detailed scenes."[23] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine was positive towards the album and called it "the band’s most sonically restrained effort to date."[24] Sputnikmusic praised the album stating, "it's almost unbelievable how much more profound, mature, and seamless all of the songwriting, lyrics, and symbolism is here compared to any prior Killers' outing. Clearly, the toll of the pandemic and the change in scenery to Brandon's hometown brought out the best in him, and in turn, the entire band."[25]

Accolades[edit]

Accolades for Pressure Machine
Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
The Boston Globe The 60 Best Albums of the Year
NME The 50 Best Albums of 2021 30
Slant Magazine The 50 Best Albums of 2021 25
Uproxx The Best Albums of 2021

Pressure Machine was a finalist for the 2021 AML Award for lyrics.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Brandon Flowers and Jonathan Rado, except where noted.

Pressure Machine track listing
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."West Hills" 5:42
2."Quiet Town" 4:45
3."Terrible Thing"Flowers3:52
4."Cody"3:50
5."Sleepwalker" 4:27
6."Runaway Horses" (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)Flowers3:54
7."In the Car Outside"
5:28
8."In Another Life" 3:45
9."Desperate Things" 5:16
10."Pressure Machine"
  • Flowers
  • Keuning
  • Rado
5:09
11."The Getting By" 5:09
Total length:51:17
Pressure Machine (Abridged) track listing (omits spoken introductions)
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."West Hills" 5:08
2."Quiet Town" 4:16
3."Terrible Thing"Flowers3:56
4."Cody"3:37
5."Sleepwalker" 4:04
6."Runaway Horses" (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)Flowers3:24
7."In the Car Outside"
4:48
8."In Another Life" 3:13
9."Desperate Things" 5:21
10."Pressure Machine"
  • Flowers
  • Keuning
  • Rado
4:44
11."The Getting By" 3:48
Total length:46:19
Pressure Machine (Deluxe) bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
12."The Getting By II" (featuring Lucius) 3:16
13."The Getting By III" 3:51
14."The Getting By IV" 3:18
15."The Getting By V" 3:25
16."Runaway Horses II"Flowers3:28
17."West Hills II" 3:50
18."West Hills III" 3:50
Total length:76:15

Notes

Personnel[edit]

The Killers

Additional musicians

  • Gabriel Cabezas – cello (1, 6, 10–11)
  • Sara Watkins – fiddle (1, 4, 10), violin (8)
  • Joe Pug – harmonica (1–3), guitar (6)
  • Rob Moose – strings (1, 6, 10–11)
  • Jonathan Rado – synthesizer (1–2, 4–5, 7–8, 10–11), piano (2, 4–6), bass (2, 4–5, 7–8, 10), guitar (1–9, 11), harmonica (3), mandolin (4–5), organ (4, 6)
  • Anjolee Williams – background vocals (2)
  • Charles "ChuckHeat" Henderson-McCrary – background vocals (2)
  • Nate Walcott – trumpet (4)
  • Matthew Davidson – pedal steel guitar (5–6, 10)
  • Griffin Goldsmith – background vocals (11)
  • Taylor Goldsmith – background vocals (11)

Technical

  • Jonathan Rado – producer (all tracks), recording engineer (5, 10)
  • Shawn Everett – producer, mixer, recording engineer
  • Chris Allgood – mastering engineer
  • Emily Lazar – mastering engineer
  • Jed Jones – recording engineer (1–2, 4–5, 7–9)
  • Matt Breunig – recording engineer (1–2, 4, 7, 9)
  • Will Maclellan – recording engineer (1–8, 10–11)
  • Alec Eitram – recording engineer (2, 4, 8, 11)
  • Raoul Ahmad – recording engineer (2, 4, 8, 11)
  • Robert Root – recording engineer (4, 10)
  • Rias Reed – recording engineer (5, 8, 10)

Charts[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Richards, Will. "The Killers reveal 'Pressure Machine' tracklist featuring Phoebe Bridgers".
  3. ^ Baltin, Steve. "Sunday Conversation: The Killers On Their Intimate And Different New Album, Supergroups And Literature".
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