The Killers – Battle Born (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE Killers’ Brandon Flowers has previously hinted that their latest album, Battle Born, offers their most diverse collection of songs to date. That’s partly true.
There are moments that strip away the trademark big American rock sound in favour of an epic sweep to rival Meatloaf, as well as ballads that were partly inspired by Elton John. But there’s also those classic crowd-pleasers that The Killers do so well… songs that delve rich into American life and values a la Bruce Springsteen.
Hence, while the odd diversion genuinely does excite, the values remain intact and the fans should be satisfied. Whether Battle Born is ambitious enough to widen their fan-base still further, however, seems unlikely.
So, first to the new sound… Here With Me offers a piano backed slice of melancholy balladry that really gets under your skin. Lovelorn, emotion-packed (“don’t want your picture on my cellphone, I want you here with me, don’t want your memory in my head now, I want you here with me”) and beautiful, it’s evocative of both classic Sir Elton and more contemporary Keane. It’s a cigarette lighter moment in waiting and a definite soundtrack moment.
Deadlines and Commitments also reverts to a Keane-like formula by virtue of its decision to strip away the guitars almost completely in favour of an electronic sound, as well as a softer vocal style from Flowers. Here, his delivery borders on the falsetto and it forces you to stop in your tracks.
It’s also an anthem in waiting for anyone who needs shelter from the current economic storm with a big chorus designed for embracing and getting behind.
Heart of a Girl has an almost Jagger/Richards vibe about its intro (circa Beast of Burden with a touch of Lou Reed) and it’s another of the softer tracks that finds the band at their most disarming. Vocally, it shares more akin with James than the bombastic big sound The Killers are more renowned for (especially when singing “daddy, daddy, daddy, all my life I’ve been trying to find my place in the world”).
Be Still, meanwhile, slow-builds into an epic mid-tempo ballad that again finds Flowers at his most fragile and pained.
Anyone who suspects The Killers have lost their edge, meanwhile, can simply check out the album’s bigger moments to reassure themselves. Opening track Flesh And Bone may start out stripped down but once the synths explode into life like fireworks and the band provide backing vocals, it’s a rousing start.
Runaways is big, brash and confident, befitting the cast American highways that pave the way to the band’s Vegas home-town, The Way It Was builds into the type of mini-opera that Meat Loaf would be proud of and Miss Atomic Bomb juxtaposes American innocence at a time when the nuclear threat was first being put to the test (evidence of the scope of their song-writing), emerging as a sly love song to boot complete with euphoric tendencies.
The Rising Tide, on the other hand, is an out and out rocker that has its own vitality, mixed with the sort of classic ‘80s American crowd-pleasing tendencies that the Glee cast would make their own, while album closer and title track Battle Born is suitably big and epic to draw things to a close – meaty riffs, sweeping synths and a big vocal from Flowers bringing the curtain down in rousing fashion (with backing vocals that recall Queen).
The Killers’ latest may take a couple of listens to fully embrace but once you’ve let it settle and work its magic, it’s also the sound of a band doing what they do best and entertaining in grand style. You can’t help but be swept along, while quietly appreciating those odd detours into diversity.
But it is an event album, the musical equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie, and it never forgets that.
Download picks: Flesh And Bone, Here With Me, Deadlines and Commitments, Heart of A Girl, Battle Born, The Rising Tide