The album contextualizes not just the 'St Andrews Solo Walk', as I wrote about this past September, but also the travel we all undergo as we make our way back to St Andrews for the start of second term. A new activity, a new album.
The Killers’ “Direct Hits” compilation album has joined me on countless plane, train, and car journeys. It is my go-to travel album. Here’s why.
The Killers’ “Direct Hits” Compilation released in 2013 carries listeners through the invigorating intense guitar strums of the band's most popular hits (the obvious ‘Mr. Brightside’, ‘Somebody Told Me’, etc.). It also evokes a drama and eeriness representative of the young university student’s look to the future through the second half of the album’s track inclusions. Although many Americans and British would advocate that ‘Mr. Brightside’ is overplayed, the band offers many other top hits that still manage to strike a chord in these travel-to-our-future-induced states of mind. ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, my favorite Killers song and arguably one of my favorite songs of all time, draws you in with the Killers’ signature slow, eerie, almost mystical opening tendencies; Brandon Flowers immediately hints at growth and seeking out help for personal struggle. The signature lines “I need direction to perfection” and “While everyone’s lost, the battle is won with all these things that I’ve done” provide food for thought and encourage the self-reflection prevalent on flights back to school.
Travel back to St Andrews represents, for some, the departure from the potentially restrictive nature of close-knit community culture. The band’s track ‘Read My Mind’ complements this sentiment. It tells a seemingly complex story of the narrator’s small-town relationship but also references the narrator’s and Flowers’ break from the limiting effect of remaining in the same place, with the same people and stops, for a long time. The song almost defines the St Andrews traveller, as they make their way back to school, a place of opportunity and refreshing sights and people. The fast-paced ‘For Reasons Unknown’ also ranks one of my favorites on the album, although it proved one of the band’s less successful singles. The ominous vocal and instrumental buildup combined and lyrical repetition further energize the reflective traveller. Listeners and critics often believe Flowers wrote this song about his grandmother’s experience with Alzheimer’s, but university students returning to campus may also find themselves relating to the surface-level connotations of lines like “I pack my case. I check my face. I look a little bit older.”
Finally, the last two tracks of particular interest to the St Andrews returnee: ‘Shot at the Night’ and ‘Be Still’. ‘Shot at the Night’, released in 2013 as the lead single for the compilation album, hints at young restlessness and the urge to live presently, to move on from moments and habits one’s outgrown. ‘Be Still’ finishes off the travelling soundtrack with the most perfect sentiment to end a student’s journey back to St Andrews: “Be Still. Wild and young. Long may your innocence reign…May your limits be unknown. And may your efforts be your own.” If I quoted the parts of the song worth playing for those making their way back to school, I’d have to quote the whole song. Released just a year before the compilation album, this track, just as one finishes their drive into St Andrews or makes it to the Leuchars train station, advocates being patient with yourself, appreciating the often taken-for-granted simplicity of university structure, and not getting too caught up in the stress of planning the future.
Travel back to St Andrews need not be boring or dreaded. The Killers are arguably one of the most successful contemporary rock bands of the 21st century, and they’ve conveniently put all of their best work on one album. Students often associate this album with its opening British anthem ‘Mr. Brightside’. But the “Direct Hits” album achieves overwhelmingly more: an introspective but all-too-catchy lyrical and instrumental story of restlessness and self-acceptance, perfect for those in search of a soundtrack to their St Andrews return.
*If this pop-rock album does not suit your taste, the following playlist comprises several albums I often find myself listening to while traveling back to school.
You can find this playlist amongst others over on The Saint’s Spotify account: