Single Review: The Killers – ‘The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball’

“‘The Cowboys’ Christmas’ Ball’s infectious little ditty will stay with you for a much longer time”


Digital Release: November 30, 2011

Physical Release: N/A

Whilst there’s a comfortable inevitability about the fact that Christmas songs will one day be bearable again – when The Killers have recorded enough of them – there’s a very formulaic structure with which the majority have always abided by. Of course, we laugh now, but in decades gone by it was a way of measuring the diversity of an artist. To be able to throw on your widest smile and offer your warmest embrace for even just one Christmas song during your career was a feat in itself, especially if the finished product became as timeless as the sound of Santa’s bells and references to smiles, presents, snow and reindeer. It all appears very dated now, and aside from the select few recurrences, there’s not so much a buzz about releasing Christmas-themed song at the most wonderful time of the year any more, not now that Mr. Cowell commands everything in his cast-iron grip. 

Whether you’re happy about not having to stifle your reactionary grimace to musical festivity anymore, or you’re weeping into your 1994 physical copy of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ about the death of Christmas songs, The Killers provide the alternative. For the sixth year running, and still never giving the impression it’s anything of a chore, The Killers’ annual Christmas release takes on Christmas from a truly delightful angle. In the past they’ve shunned the typical recipe for a Christmas song and turned Santa into a crazed murderer, empathised with the Father of Jesus, and produced an indie-mariachi hybrid birthday celebration. But this year we’re taken straight back to the old Western swingin’ of the band’s hometown, Nevada. It many ways they’ve been very clever to do that. Country Western, particularly a square-dancing barn stomp like ‘The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball’, is timeless. They’ve combined two practically ageless musical concepts – Country Western and Christmas music. Whilst any genre may slip into the popularity spotlight for however long, it comes stamped with an expiry date the moment it takes off, whereas seeing two genres – seemingly an unorthodox combination – mesh together so well is something many will have tried, but few have managed to capture the raw excitability of do-si-do-ing hoedowns as well as carefully nuance the theme of Christmas joy (without going overboard). Even though the xylophone instrumental veers into slightly uninventive territory, it’s forgiven if not for the excellent use of it, then for the fact that it’s clearly not used because of a lack of ideas – The Killers’ past Christmas efforts have shown that.

‘The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball’ works in an authentically orchestrated ensemble of acoustic guitar strum, fiddle, knee-high drum kicks and Brandon’s best Southern US accent. And even when the stampede of backing singers join in for the song’s finale, it’s not a shrill choir of candle-bearing trebles; it’s a heartily-chanted melody from a dozen hollerin’ and whoopin’ cowboys. You can be certain that even when ‘Fairytale of New York’, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, The X Factor Winner’s single and however many anti-Cowell campaigns there are have started to slide their way back into obscurity, ready for next year, ‘The Cowboys’ Christmas’ Ball’s infectious little ditty will stay with you for a much longer time.

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