Few bands can claim success like The Killers. With each of their three previous albums selling in the multi-platinum category, people respect what they have to say.
The Killers released Battle Born, the long-awaited follow-up to 2008’s Day & Age on Tuesday, Sept. 18, but fans of the fast-paced punk feel of their first album, Hot Fuss, will only find tiny elements of favorites like “Mr. Brightside” in the latest record.
In the same way, the glam and pomp of Day & Age has been pushed to the fringes. Instead, the band has taken the grandiose storytelling of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, Sam’s Town, and made it even bigger.
No band member takes the backseat in this endeavor. Pounding drums, powerful guitar, plinking synth and persistent bass all take turns driving. And while the music drives the album, the vocals ride shotgun, giving the album direction.
Named after the slogan on the flag of the band’s home state of Nevada, Battle Born is a distinctly American work of art. The emotional ballads are meant for the first slow dance at prom and the huge arena rock numbers are meant for just that—to be played in a huge arena. The massive influence of Springsteen-style Americana and heartland rock and the sound of U2 or Coldplay is undeniable. Blues organ, gospel choirs and slide guitars make appearances on a few songs.
Nostalgia is the clear theme of the album. The retrospective musical style is paired with reminiscent lyrics that remind us of the good old days of American lore.
Unfortunately, this album fails to capture the sincerity and potency of previous favorites from the band like “When You Were Young” and “A Dustland Fairytale.” This album falls for the same trap that the band’s hometown of Las Vegas practically invented: Behind all the lights and showiness, the music lacks true heart.
The emotions seem forced and the nostalgia feels artificial. This is partially due to the immaculate production value of the whole album. Though gorgeous and polished, everything is perfectly tuned and calculated in a way that feels overdone.
Most of the songs fade into the past, but the one beautiful exception is the single, “Runaways.” Even cynics would want to drive into the sunset in an old convertible with their sweetheart while listening to this song.
The Killers have mastered the arena ballad, but don’t expect tears or pensive reminiscence or remorse with the fond memories presented here.