The Killers are one of the last great stadium rock bands. A quartet of good looking dudes on guitar, drums, bass, and keys; they make big hooks and anthemic choruses look easy as stadiums of fans around the world sing along. They’re passionate, earnest, and have an education in rock ‘n’ roll. While part of the new rock revolution of the early ‘00’s, The Killers are very much traditionalists, cribbing from the pop artists they grew up idolizing, from Elvis Presley, to Bruce Springsteen, from Meat Loaf to Duran Duran. They are also the rare band that—for a time—regularly put out a Christmas-themed tune just in time for the holidays. Even more rare that it was usually an original, not simply another cover of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. The tradition began in 2006, just months after the release of their sophomore album, the Steinman-esque Sam’s Town, and culminated with the compilation, Don’t Waste Your Wishes which the band released on vinyl earlier this year. Frontman Brandon Flowers says that the band is “finished with the Christmas song game,” but the band did give fans eleven great tracks to put on their Christmas mix CD’s for years to come and raised quite a bit of money for the (RED) campaign to fight HIV and AIDS. The proceeds from the sales of all of the band’s Chiristmas singles, as well as the compilation, went to the charity.
The band has always been creative in their music videos utilizing anime, performance, and even Daily Grindhouse favorite Eric Roberts and their Christmas videos were no different. A Killers Christmas tune could feature peace, love, and murder all in a single verse, and the band and the filmmakers certainly took cues from genre cinema for these clips.
With their full length debut Hot Fuss, The Killers painted a neon and synth drenched vision of modern day Las Vegas. On their follow up Sam’s Town, the band looked to the more rustic back roads side of their home state of Nevada. Their 2009 release “¡Happy Birthday, Guadalupe!” featured Los Angeles punk/mariachi band Mariachi El Bronx as the band’s horn section as well as east coast indie rockers, Wild Light. The video doubles down on the mariachi inspired track, cribbing from westerns, featuring Luke Perry filling in the boots of the lone cowboy, searching for his lost love. The video is inspired by westerns—American and spaghetti—and features imagery inspired by Mexico’s Day Of The Dead.
For 2011’s “The Cowboy’s Christmas Ball,” The Killers took the lyrics of an 1890 poem of the same name and set them to a tune appropriate for square dancing. The band only changed the first line from “Way out in Western Texas, where the Clear Fork’s waters flow” to “Way out in Old Nevada, where the Truckee’s’ waters flow” lest we forget the boys are from Las Vegas. From the opening credits, the inspiration of ‘60s Western Musicals is in the D.N.A. of the Technicolor “Christmas Ball.” The band is covered in just enough dirt to give them some wild, west authenticity but not so much to spoil their good looks (and gleaming white teeth) as Flowers plays the role of narrator like a rock ‘n’ roll Gene Autry. Like so many Westerns before, the town where The Killers reside is under siege by some no-goodniks and it’s up to the gun-slingin’ good guys to stop them…with the help of two robots beamed down to the desert from their flying saucer. Good of course triumphs over evil, The Killers perform triumphantly at the county seat, and a deputized robot from outer space teaches everyone how to breakdance as the harmonies soar…just like in the Bible.
Weird television enthusiasts were sure to recognize footage from 1951’s The Living Christ Series featured in the video for “Joseph, Better You Than Me.” Considered to be the first television miniseries, the twelve episodes originally aired on NBC and are now part of the public domain…and therefore absolutely free to use in your music video about being Jesus’ adoptive dad. Elton John and Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant both appear on the track alongside The Killers. It’s worth noting that Robert Wilson—who portrays the chosen one in this video—went on to play Jesus Christ three more times. Apparently, he did look a thing like Jesus.
The Killers invited fellow Las Vegas native Jimmy Kimmel for their 2014 tune “Joel, The Lump Of Coal.” Donning ugly Christmas sweaters, the band and the talk show host take a cue from the Rankin/Bass holiday specials and Suzy Snowflake inspired kitsch that we all grew up watching. The clip utilizes animation and low rent special effects to tell Joel, The Lump Of Coals tale. He’s sort of a modern day Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer or Frosty The Snowman, and despite feeling he may not have a place in this world, finds his purpose by “making your pain into a precious jewel.” Joel, The Lump Of Coal hasn’t become an iconic Christmas character…yet.
What’s more grindhouse than the concept of revenge? From THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE, to LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, to MS. 45, to KILL BILL and beyond, revenge is a classic trope of exploitation cinema and, according to an old Klingon proverb, a dish best served cold. The Killers kicked off their Santa’s Revenge Trilogy with 2007’s “Don’t Shoot Me Santa” featuring Ryan Pardey as the man in the red suit, kidnapping and terrorizing lead singer Brandon Flowers. The band eventually comes to his rescue, but as grandfather said in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, if “you see Santa Claus tonight, you better run boy, you better run for your life.”
Following the release of their fourth LP, the band released the moody, sinister sounding “I Feel It In My Bones” in 2012. The video—from “Cowboys Christmas Ball” director Roboshobo—is drenched in Mario Bava inspired saturated reds and greens and lots of creeping fog. “Bones” once again finds Santa on the hunt for Brandon, Ronnie, Dave, and Mark. Santa has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal and haunts the dreams of the band. Santa on his slick chrome motorbike recalls Randall “Tex” Cobb in the Cohen Brother’s RAISING ARIZONA. Ryan Parday reprises his role as Santa and closes out the grindhouse inspired video with an ultra creepy rendition of “Silent Night.”
2015’s “Dirt Sledding” wrapped things up for Santa and The Killers and features Daily Grindhouse patron saint—Matt Hooper himself—Richard Dreyfuss providing the narration for the electrifying conclusion. Santa has a change of heart, partying Burning Man-style with the band—in furry get ups—in the Nevada desert. The tune is one part Elvis Presley, one part Cheap Trick, and one of the most swaggering Christmas tunes committed to wax. And lets be honest, aren’t “pretty girls, Christmas lights, mistletoe, and holy nights” all anyone wants this time of year?