For Killers fans like myself, this renewed spirit in their music made anticipation high for the band’s next studio album. Would they continue to explore transcendent themes in grandiose style or perhaps make a Sgt. Pepper’s-style statement and sift the limits of dance rock?
As it turns out, they would do neither. Battle Born, released on September 18, is an epic disappointment by almost any measure. The opener “Flesh and Bone” has some of the characteristic Killers energy and vocal hooks, but the repeated “flesh and bone” chorus chants sound gimmicky and add to the melodrama of Brandon Flowers wailing “What are you made of!” The album’s first single “Runaways” is the second track, a passable yet underwhelming effort for a band that usually excels at delivering hit singles. Any momentum that these first two tracks are able to muster is quickly ground to a halt with the next two, “The Way It Was” and “Here With Me.” They simply sound like bad lovelorn 80′s ballads, complete with syrup-drenched lyrics and schlocky instrumentation.
The slog continues with songs like “A Matter of Time” and “Miss Atomic Bomb,” which sound like The Killers straining to be hip and retro but instead turn out to be nostalgic and tepid. The eighth track “The Rising Tide” is an attempt to lift the energy, but even the gnarly, fuzzed-out guitar solo towards the back end of the song is given weak support by strangely indifferent drumming. The second to last track “Be Still” is an admirable attempt at an anthem that struggles to be inspiring and heartfelt, with lines like “Rise up like the sun, and labor ’till the work is done.” Although the song is cloying and overwrought at times, the unabashed hope that springs forth from Flowers’ soaring vocal melodies is enough to bring a small glimmer of inspiration to the album’s back end.
The Killers took a year to make Battle Born, and after listening to the album, it sounds as if they spent all that time stuck in the desert of the band’s home state of Nevada with nothing but cheesy 80′s Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams ballads as reference material. It’s an album that sounds mailed in, as if the band ran out of ideas but still had to fulfill a record contract. Perhaps this is the death of The Killers as we know them. Here’s hoping that their next step is rebirth.
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