Negative Reinforcement


Shed Seven

Shed Seven

I’ve been learning about positive reinforcement this m0rning, that is, the quite Pauline method of structured feedback. The principle is quite simple: start by pointing out all the good points about a piece of, for example, work you have to mark. Then go through the bad points, all the while pointing out how they can be improved.


Out of defensiveness, I’m taking quite the opposite approach today. You see, I listened to the Killers, on purpose, on my way in to work today. Normally I’d be the first to condemn this sort of behaviour but I have to confess, sometimes I get a hankering after an old affection – it might be Dropkick Murphys, or Groop Dogdrill, or even the Wildhearts. Today it was the Killers.

In many ways, there’s much to hate. Of all the bands that sprang up in the last few years trying to blend the synthy, 80s thing with indie-rock guitar snarls, the Killers were far and away the most commercially successful. Never mind that the lyrics were less than sophisticated: “save some face, you know you’ve only got one,” indeed. Never mind the big, in your face, built for radio production that makes Ross Robinson‘s late nineties endeavours look like those of Steve Albini. Never mind the hamfisted keyboard stabs and chunky guitars that sound less like an elegant throwback to the early 1980’s, more like a clunky rehash of latter-day Morrissey, or worse, the most common comparison, Shed Seven. Imagine, if you will, Brandon Flowers performing the Witter dance. Never mind the shabby attempts at sleazy rock’n’roll notoriety that proper rock stars would scoff at. Never mind Flowers attempting to place himself somewhere between Nick Cave’s ill-advised porno-tache and Bono’s messianic ambitions.

I think the Killers crammed themselves into my head quite by accident, through no intention of their own. Their songs are blunt instruments, superficial and hardly thought-provoking. But there’s a certain something that snags the heartstrings, redolent not of rockstar sleaze but of the daily grind of human failure. The Killers represent wandering between campus/office and style bar, fitting in nowhere, trying to find meaning in a life through the things of this world, trying to define oneself by one’s tacky relationships and horrible attitudes, defining oneself in the most miserable terms and never moving on.

So, the Killers hold a little nostalgia for me not for the quality or accuracy of their songs but for a resonance that, I’m sure, was quite unintentional.


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