I remember when The Killers announced they were going on hiatus – I’d resigned myself to never being able to see them perform and I’d written them off almost completely following on from the relative letdown (in my opinion) that was 2008’s Day & Age. After enjoying Brandon Flowers’ solo effort in the interim however, I was more than excited to learn that the band was back in the studio, working on what would turn out to be Battle Born, the fourth studio album.
In a musical climate where cheesy manufactured pop and ‘faux-step’ dominate mainstream charts, Battle Born has come at the perfect time; although the Springsteen comparisons are undeniable (probably more on this record than any other Killers effort), Battle Born is an album full of that classic, guitar-driven rock that Killers fans have more than likely been yearning for. By no means is there a song on this album that matches up to the likes of “Mr. Brightside” or “When You Were Young” (although “Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb” hint potential), but I don’t think that Flowers and co are necessarily aiming to do so.
“Flesh and Bone” opens the album and shows The Killers at their 80s synth-rocking best, with Flowers’ emphatic vocals soaring alongside Ronnie Vanucci’s call-to-arms-like percussion. It’s a thrilling opener and promises more of this ‘The Killers are back in form’ attitude “Runaways” had established upon its release months ago. “Here With Me” is a song for the romantics in the listening demographic; much like “Runaways”, Flowers channels his shattered sentimental side and proceeds to produce a story of doomed love (“Don’t want your picture on my cell phone/ I want you here with me/ Don’t want your memory in my head, no/I want you here with me…”). It has the same effect on me that “For Reasons Unknown” has with each listen – some of those lyrics, or at least the emotion behind their delivery, are too relatable.
There are moments of M83-styled drama scattered through the album, which works in its favour, but at the root of it all, Battle Born is a classic Killers record of days gone by. Flowers’ vocals are more refined on this one and match the onslaught of the guitar, which is the norm for the band, which is lovely to listen to – most seen in “Deadlines and Commitments” and “The Rising Tide”.
Imagery is a key point in the execution of most of these songs and I think that it is in the establishment of a sprawling American dream setting with all the trimmings – Las Vegas heat, Mustangs and tanned, careless youths falling in and out of love – that Battle Born falls slightly short of being one of The Killers’ best efforts. The above is a classic shtick to expected from The Killers and while they pull it off in their usual grandiose, stadium-filling way, I can’t help but feel that something should have progressed more in the four years they’ve spent away from the band. In saying this, I find Battle Born still quite enjoyable even on my umpteenth listen – I can’t wait to see how it translates live.
Review Score: 7.8 out of 10