The Killers were arguably the biggest artist development story last year. But for bands hot enough to make the Everest-like climb from club to arena level on one album cycle, getting there is only hal

The Killers were arguably the biggest artist development story last year. But for bands hot enough to make the Everest-like climb from club to arena level on one album cycle, getting there is only half the challenge. On the eve of the Killers' follow-up album, "Sam's Town," the group is facing the uphill battle of having to prove itself all over again. The toughest part is staying in the big rooms, avoiding a short shelf life and showing the potential for career longevity. The history of rock is littered with tales of bands that blew up big only to fizzle out.

"Sam's Town" doesn't stray far from the sound introduced on 2004's "Hot Fuss," with its throbbing bass lines, jagged guitar blasts, vintage synth flourishes and singer Brandon Flowers' theatrical phrasing. Two upcoming singles, "For Reasons Unknown" and "Read My Mind," are close relatives to the propulsive pop of the band's breakthrough hit, "Mr. Brightside."

Elsewhere, "Uncle Jonny" experiments with the dark, midtempo rock perfected by the Verve, while the influence of David Bowie and early Peter Gabriel hover above the dramatic "My List" and "Why Do I Keep Counting?" Two short piano-driven pieces, "Enterlude" and "Exitlude," find Flowers asking after the well-being of the listener: "Outside the sun is shining / seems like heaven ain't far away / It's good to have you with us / even if it's just for the day."

Despite the requisite second-album buzz, response to the Bruce Springsteen-ish single "When You Were Young" has been mixed, and a comment by Flowers in May that "Sam's Town" is "one of the best albums in the past 20 years" has received lots of Internet backlash. "We're not cocky," Flowers says. "And I don't mean to sound cocky. We're just proud of this record. At the end of the day, it's all in the ear of the beholders. We don't believe the hype. We believe it's a good piece of work. I never said we were trying to reinvent the wheel. We just want to keep it rolling."

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