It’s been four years since we’ve heard from Las Vegas’ native sons The Killers (the less we say about Brandon’s solo album the better). Stepping into the spotlight with 2004’s incredible Hot Fuss, The Killers blaze a unique career path mixing 00s indie rock sensibilities with 80s pop hooks and soaring U2 levels of epic purpose. Each album has focused a little closer on one of these musical aspects. This time around the 80s are in full effect and unfortunately work to create the weakest album of their career.
For an album called Battle Born this whole affair is incredibly mellow. “Flesh and Bone” starts things with plenty of promise but never gives the sort of catharsis the beginning of the song hints at. Next track and lead single “Runaways” delivers much more in this department and isn’t bad per se…it’s just a little too “been there, done that.” You can’t shake the feeling they mined this same sound on Sam’s Town’s lead single “When You Were Young” to much better results. “The Way It Was” is a great track but also just feels a little too familiar. Far too much recycling is going on much too early into this album’s runtime.
Remember how all those great John Hughes films from the 80s had evocative songs to punctuate the emotional moments of the characters? It seems like The Killers took that approach for this whole album, because almost every song could fit into one of these moments. “Here With Me” is for that moment when the main character is sadly looking through photographs and having flashbacks to great times with his girlfriend before their recent break up, clutching tear-stained images of the good ole days. For that moment where the upset girl is running away from her life there’s “A Matter of Time” (it’s actually one of the better tracks). “Deadlines and Commitments” sounds like the music for a training montage where they guy works to get his girl back. “Miss Atomic Bomb” is for that triumphant moment at the school dance where the girl and guy are reunited at last! The guy realizes despite being a little crazy, he loves this wacky gal.
The Killers’ “Runaways”
The comparison isn’t just figurative either: glittery synth lines are at the forefront with Brandon’s broken-hearted narrator vocals; the guitar is just a subtle bed for the cheese to work over the top of. “The Rising Tide” is a little more rousing with some great guitar work – a solo even! It sounds like a keys-heavy track that could’ve been on Sam’s Town. But with “Heart of a Girl” we’re right back where we were before, hearing Brandon quietly emote about how he’ll listen all night to the heart of a girl if he has to…yes, complete with plenty of twinkling synths as well. Before we get choked up in too much emotion we get a quasi-country number in “From Here On Out,” complete with handclaps. Along with the title track “Battle Born,” it’s easily one of the brightest spots on the album.
It should be noted that this doesn’t come from someone who only enjoyed Hot Fuss and complains about the rest of The Killers’ catalog. Nope, Day and Age was a fantastic album and still gets regular rotation. Yes, it had plenty of soft and even a few unbelievably cheesy moments like “Joy Ride.” But it had an incredibly catchy single in “Human,” an upbeat dance song in “Spaceman” and a downright anthem in “The World We Live In.” Nothing on this album lives up to such lofty heights set by their previous work.
The Killers’ “Battle Born”
That’s not to say that many people won’t enjoy this album. Certainly, plenty of people will. Sometimes it actually helps one to irrationally cling to an overly emotive and sappy albums in times of sadness and heartbreak. If that’s you right now, this might just be your album of the year, because boy does it seem like somebody has a broken heart. If you need this sort of wallowing and slightly 80s cheese then saddle up, your album is here. For those of you that want The Killers to rock, look elsewhere my friends.
For the best mileage out of this album, make sure to pick up the Deluxe Edition of Battle Born, because honestly, the bonus tracks are more worthwhile than many of the album tracks. “Carry Me Home” is a great rock song and “Prize Fighter” has more energy and originality than other tracks that made the main album. Hell, even the Jacques Lu Cont remix of “Flesh and Bone” is far better than the album version, sounding like it could live in the neighborhood of “Spaceman.” But maybe that’s why they were left off the album — they had too much pep in a decidedly downbeat record.
Let’s put in this way: it’s fairly mediocre and sappy for a Killers album. However, it still sounds better than the majority of stuff you might stumble upon while scanning through Top 40 radio.
Written by Jarad Matula
OurVinyl | Senior Writer