Somewhere along the road, those young Nevada boys we all came to love following 2004′s Hot Fuss grew up. Maybe it was in 2006 when we were all too busy playing air guitar to Sam’s Town to notice that The Killers were starting to mature and write more personal songs. Maybe it was shortly thereafter when I picked up an issue of Rolling Stone to read a criticism about how the band was desperately trying (and failing) to rewrite Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. Or maybe it was during their four-year hiatus when we all sat around listening to frontman Brandon Flowers’ solo album, Flamingo, pretending that we were all truly satisfied with it. Regardless of when it happened, the fact of the matter is that it did – and it came in the midst of a fanbase desperate for one of the most exciting and successful American rock bands of the last decade to return to the studio. The most striking feature of The Killers’ new album, Battle Born, is its maturity. Flowers wrote these songs from the perspective of the man he is: a father, a husband, and an adult. The themes of Battle Born vary from emotional distress and frustration in relationships, feelings of isolation from one’s family and loved ones, and most importantly, trying to move on with your life when it seems like your best days are behind you.
The album’s opener, “Flesh and Bone,” picks up where 2008′s Day & Age left off: an upbeat and undeniably catchy start to the album. The guitars that come in after the first chorus give the song much more of a kick, only getting more dramatic as the energy builds toward the chorus, which is by far the loudest on the track. Then there is the lead single, “Runaways,” which has grown on me by leaps and bounds. On first listen this track did not appear to be anything special, but after numerous more, I now find myself singing that shit in the shower (and with no shame whatsoever). Like the opener, this song builds really well. By the time the last chorus hits, Flowers is ten times more passionate than at the start, thus creating a great climax come the finale.
This is a very ballad-heavy album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering some of The Killers’ best songs (ie. “Read My Mind,” “A Dustland Fairytale”) have been of that kind. The third track, “The Way it Was,” has one of the smoother grooves on the album, sounding like something we would have heard on Day & Age. Flowers describes his frustration with losing the magic in his relationship and longing for the feelings of old. Nothing really too innovative in its content, but the song stands out because it is just so damn easy on the ears. “Here With Me” is the perfect song to hold a lighter to at a concert; this song is just drummer Ronnie Vannucci beating the hell out of his set while Flowers pours his heart out. By all accounts, this is an adult love song. Then there’s “A Matter Of Time,” which is the epitome of a Killers track. The fast-paced guitars and singing in the second verse about the floor boards creeping up and the sense of nostalgia and hopelessness is very reminiscent of Hot Fuss.
“Miss Atomic Bomb” was sort of a misstep for me. The song builds really well, but doesn’t really go anywhere. The instrumentation is not bad, but the song really crosses over into the “cheesy love song” range that was avoided so well on the previous tracks “The Way it Was” and “Here With Me.” However, the album wastes little time getting back on pace with “The Rising Tide”: another stand out track that lets guitarist Dave Keuning display his talent in a much more up-beat fashion. “Heart Of a Girl” shows a much more gentle and intimate side to Flowers’ songwriting and proves to be the album’s most personal song. It is a very soft opening that builds really well with its sound as the song progresses. This is one of the more well-written songs on Battle Born and it blends really well into “From Here On Out.” “Be Still” on the other hand is probably the most skippable song on the album. The most ballad-heavy sound on Battle Born, the song has some nice synths and a good melody, but never really caught my attention and failed to grow on me. The Killers save the best for last, however, with the epic final track, “Battle Born.” The album couldn’t have ended on a higher note as Flowers’ delivers one of his most captivating vocal performances yet. “Battle Born” blends thunderous guitars with a huge build to create a sound that is reminiscent of one of the stronger moments on Sam’s Town. The heavy synths that rise as the song fades out in the last minute of the album truly mark an emphasis on finishing Battle Born just as dramatically as it began.
On their fourth studio album, The Killers incorporate the familiar styles and sounds from their three previous records, while bringing in some new elements to keep it fresh. Battle Born is a well written album that offers moments of roaring excitement as well as tender moments of emotional anguish. The combination of the two, coupled with a more mature direction in songwriting, culminates in an album that is sure to satisfy a maturing fanbase.
4 out of 5