Trying to contain my enthusiasm at finally hearing The Killers’ latest album, I started listening to Battle Born on repeat as soon as the pre-release stream started on iTunes. Put together after the band took a much-needed year-and-a-half hiatus, the group’s fourth studio effort is a spectacular rock album imbued with a musical maturity some of the band’s earlier records lacked.
The group’s first album Hot Fuss was full of unbridled passion that swept us all into a Killers craze. After the days of “Mr. Brightside,” the band traded much of its rawness and brute-force energy for poignant philosophical statements and tranquil beauty. With Battle Born, The Killers have finally struck a balance between these two extremes. It seems as if they’ve stopped trying to prove themselves and have settled into their own style. Melding their increasingly mature sound with themes ranging from the wonders of the American landscape to the power of true love, The Killers have constructed a classic.
Emblematic of the sturdy style of the album as a whole, the title track is a grand ol’ tribute to the U.S. of A. The Killers remind their country that she was born out of the ravages of war and that she “can’t stop now.” Filled with an intense optimism, it ends with a crooning “welcome home” that brings out the inner patriot in all of us. The song epitomizes the nostalgic aesthetic of Battle Born, which hearkens back to the prime of Bruce Springsteen, with shades of “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run.” The album is distinctly American from start to finish, and The Killers make no apologies for it.
In terms of the album’s highlights, “Runaways” had already become a huge favorite of mine during the summer, and I heard the group play the grandiose “Flesh and Bone” live back in July. With these two precursors in mind, I expected an epic, stadium-rock style album along the lines of Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet or Queen’s Jazz. Surprisingly, in spite of its heavy-hitting rock ‘n’ roll moments, Battle Born also offers up a number of intimate moments and soft tunes, in which the Las Vegas natives take it down a notch and get personal.
Although grander tracks such as “The Way It Was” create a wonderfully big sound that recalls the band’s earlier and louder days, slower and more soulful songs such as “Be Still” showcase a sense of maturity listeners haven’t totally seen from the group before.
In fact, my only criticism of the record concerns the constant use of 80s-style synthetic drums, which become more irritating than entertaining by the time you work your way down to “Deadlines and Commitments” — only the sixth track on the album. But even the overuse of this aesthetic doesn’t do much to undermine lead-singer Brandon Flowers’ lyrical meditations on his newly evolving role as both rock star and father. Moreover, this musical technique suits the album’s sense of old-school Americana and nostalgia.
I recommend that you go home, purchase Battle Born, lie down on your bed and close your eyes. As you listen to the tracks of this poignant musical powerhouse, imagine you’re getting into your vintage Thunderbird, put the keys in the ignition, and head west into the sweeping landscape of mountains, forests, open fields and tranquil lakes that define this country. Let The Killers take you on a journey through great highway rock ‘n’ roll jams and soft, crooning ballads. After all, sometimes, we all just need to “run away.”