Given the pre-Christmas release date alone, you'd be forgiven for approaching The Killers' latest record with some wariness. That it is also a 'B-Sides and Rarities' collection, so early on in the band's career, provokes extra caution.
Over the last decade the B-side has acted more often than not as a filler track, earning its tagging as playing second fiddle to the often superior A-side. Many such collections have proved to be cynical industry cash-ins. It wasn't always the case.
Many will recall how life-affirming The Smiths' 'Hatful of Hollow' proved - a composite of B-sides and radio recordings. The 1990s saw Nirvana's raw and passionate 'Incesticide' fill in the gap between 'Nevermind' and 'In Utero', while Oasis, Suede and The Smashing Pumpkins all released B-side collections that far surpassed their later work.
'Sawdust', thankfully, can be added to these memorable success stories. Opener 'Tranquilize' is the newest song on show, having been recorded last summer in New York with Lou Reed. With Reed's dark and melancholic vocal complementing the sprightlier Brandon Flowers, 'Tranquilize' could have easily slotted onto 'Sam's Town' and is indicative of the musical progress the band has made since the release of 'Hot Fuss'.
Joy Division's 'Shadowplay' is one of three cover versions present and the first track on the album which should have remained locked in the vaults. The lighter, brasher luminous version here is far too much at odds with Ian Curtis' original lyrical content.
The impressive 'All the Pretty Faces' draws from Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love', while the metal undertones of Dave Keuning's guitar are in stark contrast to the glam/Brit Pop stylings of 'Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf', which is lifted from the 'Hot Fuss' sessions. It is however, another fine cut.
'Under the Gun', again recorded at the same time as 'Hot Fuss', is in keeping with that record's leaner tracks. One dimensional, for sure, but this would nonetheless have had arenas jumping up and down.
The funkier, rockier 'Where the White Boys Dance' blends the two different styles from the band's two records to date and can feel hard done by not to have made the cut for 'Sam's Town'.
Elsewhere a cover of 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town' - a song made famous by Kenny Rogers - is an inspired cover and points to the Las Vegas quartet's new found pride in music made in their native country.
The robust and assured 'Daddy's Eyes' is the best track here, all glorious funky pop with a dark, slightly unhinged vocal from Flowers layered over a heavy slice of synth-driven pop.
Interesting and far better than we might have been expected, 'Sawdust' is a strong and forceful collection, straddling styles and testament that The Killers seem to have rarely taken their eyes off the quality control aspect of their recordings. Long may it continue.