In 2010 The Killers announced they would be entering an extended hiatus, a time that front man, Brandon Flowers, and drummer, Mark Stoermer, would take advantage of, each focusing on his own solo projects. However, after a year and a half the band decided to reunite, recording their fourth studio album, Battle Born. While it might not stand out among other releases from this year, or even amidst their own catalogue, it still possesses a strong vocal performance from Flowers and enough solid, high-energy tracks to make it worthwhile.
Since the band’s explosive debut with 2004’s Hot Fuss, The Killers have established themselves as modern music icons with their distinctive blend of alternative, punk, and pop elements, often driven by powerful vocals and frenetic instrumentation.
The following releases, Sam’s Town and Day & Age, allowed The Killers to bolster their reputation, but also caused the band to take a hiatus in the hopes of getting a break from the relentless touring that accompanied their success.
With Battle Born though, the band looks to return to their roots, as this phrase appears on the state flag of Nevada (The Killer’s state of origin), while also revealing the band’s willingness to work and fight in order to earn their success.
Battle Born maintains the standard of their previous albums, generating enough energy within a few tracks to last for the whole album, starting with “Flesh and Bone,” setting the tone for the rest of album with the lines, “I’ve gone through life white knuckle / In the moments that left me behind / Refusing to heed the yield / I penetrate the force field in the blind,” providing support for the album’s audacious title.
By the end of this song, “Runaways” couldn’t come soon enough, building off of the previous track’s vivacity while allowing a sense of optimism to sneak in, with Flowers singing, “Let’s take chance, baby we can’t lose. / Ain’t we all just runaways? / I knew it when I met you / I’m not gonna let you/ Runaway.”
This creates a stark contrast with the following song, “The Way It Was,” a lamentation about the end of a relationship and inquiries about the potential continuation of it, asking, “If I go on with you by my side, / Can it be the way it was when we met?”
However, while the lyrics suggest an unhappy ending, the upbeat meter allows for a sense of hope to underlie the otherwise dreary tone.
While these songs all generate an atmosphere that is crucial to the overall effect of the album, they also blend together, making songs like “From Here On Out” stand out more for diverging from the standard elements of the other tracks, incorporating an almost-’80s feel, emphasized by the lines “You was riding in the danger zone,” and the sing-along phrase of “Hey, from here on out.”
While this album really shines with a few upbeat tracks, it falls short when they try to tone it down, despite the strong vocal achievements.
“Here With Me” can be seen as the biggest exception to this rule, with Flowers mustering all of his experience to create a powerful, yet vulnerable performance, harnessing a sense of desperation with the lines “Now just to reach you / Baby, I’d stand in line,” and finishing the song, gliding into his falsetto to exemplify the difficulties the singer is experiencing. Aside from this, “Deadlines and Commitments” provides another example of modernized ’80s elements, with vulnerable front man being the focal point, but lacking lyrical depth, playing off of clichés, such as “If you should fall upon hard times / If you should lose your way / There is a place here in this house / That you can stay.”
Overall, Battle Born is a welcome return for The Killers. While it might not be fresh, lyrically brilliant, or technically innovative, it’s still a good album and it gives fans what they deserve by maintaining the iconic sound that has come to be expected of them for the past
While it lacks lyrical depth, it compensates with high-energy musicality, creating a record that is almost worth the wait if you take it for what it is: a simple, decent album.
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