That feeling when you’re about to fall asleep but you’re still conscious; your mind starts to cut through thought-clouds the way airplane wings would; everything so lucid, brilliant ideas so easy — you can actually hear beautiful new melodies playing, trumpets and pianos and voices born out of nothing; letting go; you’re a genius, damn it, just stay awake
Then the jolt, from your chest to your stomach, your body locking up, your mind more awake than it ever was. Suddenly you’re older; twist and turn, it’s not the same. Won’t be the rest of the night.
You try to get it back, think of all the what-ifs: college in the fall, Fridays after class, diners and coffee shops and bookstores and first apartments. These moments, so perfect, fleeting like they’re erased as soon as they happen. So you have to remember. “And my lips they don’t kiss the way they used to. And my eyes don’t recognize you at all.” This is Brandon Flowers. Trying to hold on. Knowing it’s over. Not wanting to go home. Not able to.
It’s always trite. Did you think this never happened to anyone else? From “Read My Mind”: “I never really gave up on breaking out of this two-star town.” In “This River Is Wild”: “This town was meant for passin’ through; it ain’t nothin’ new.” So you just charge harder. Lots of “gonnas” and “wannas.” Loose, sloppy playing and power hooks. Earth-beaming synthesizer intros. And so many questions: “Should I just get along with myself?” “Don’t you want to feel my bones?” “Why do you waste my time?”
It’s all ambiguous, isn’t it? Sam’s Town isn’t “Mary’s Place” or “Maggie’s Farm” or even “Jesse’s Girl.” So pinpoint for us — since you know so much already — the exact thing that falls apart inside when we hear the pleading “Can you help me get down?” toward the end of “Why Do I Keep Counting?,” broken into pieces because one breath couldn’t hold it all together?
Tell us how to shut it off when the “higher and higher”s crash and close “Bling (Confessions of a King).” Or how to blink away the image we get of “the corner of Main Street,” everyone “just tryin’ to keep it in line.”
My favorite is from the title track, Flowers dancing on an itchy riff: “I got this energy beneath my feet, like something underground’s gonna come up and carry me.” He’s waited so long for this, and how it hurts to find out he stood in the wrong line.
None of it changes anything. You’re still looking in, not out. And you can’t get it back, no matter how many pieces you find, how real they look and feel, how much they remind you of what you’re looking for, how bad you want it. And those feelings — how they sting and then dull but never really heal — they’re there, they really are. But then you shut your eyes. They’re gone, and it’s never the same.