The Killers aren’t cool. They’re not a hip, indie band. They’re a quartet from Las Vegas, and most of the band members are married, Mormon and nearing or in their 30s. They’ve gained decent mainstream success, though, so it’s easy to write them off as just another pop band.
However, after a four-year hiatus since 2008′s “Day & Age” and some solo efforts from its band members, the Killers are back with “Battle Born.” Thankfully, it’s a triumphant return to their unique sound, which remains nearly unaffected.
Much like 2004′s “Hot Fuss,” “Battle Born” is an ode to Nevada, the band’s home state. While the Killers’ debut was the perfect soundtrack to a night out driving through the flashing lights of the Las Vegas Strip, their latest album reflects a new maturity and nostalgia. It is better suited for a journey through the sunbaked Western desert.
The Springsteen influences – an almost constant theme throughout many of their albums – are obvious, along with the ’80s synth-pop sounds that listeners of the Killers back in 2004 will recognize. It even has a bit of country music thrown in the mix.
“Flesh and Bone,” the album’s opener and one of its best tracks, starts off slowly and gradually builds to become an engaging song that captures listeners and will keep them hitting repeat. It combines solid songwriting and storytelling with a great combination of synth-pop and rock and roll. Along with “Miss Atomic Bomb,” “Flesh and Bone” could easily grow to be considered one of the best songs of “Battle Born.”
The album’s first single, “Runaways,” has been a radio favorite all summer. It’s got that big, arena-rock sound that will surely energize the band’s concert audiences during its tour beginning in the fall.
The best moment of the album is in “Miss Atomic Bomb.” The song references the Killers’ first hit “Mr. Brightside” with a similar title, the lyrics “I was new in town/the boy with the eager eyes” and a familiar guitar riff. The two songs connect to tell a story, as the Killers have been known to do with “the murder trilogy” on their first album linking the songs “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” “Midnight Show” and “Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf.” “Miss Atomic Bomb” is catchy and becomes one of the stronger points of the album, as well as a refreshing nod to the past without being overly nostalgic or repetitive.
“Heart of a Girl” and “From Here On Out” move the Killers into country territory, and while the songs are not bad, they’re not remarkable or easily remembered either. They are neutral songs that neither make nor break the album.
“Battle Born’s” lowest point is “Here With Me,” which features miserable lyrics like “Don’t want your picture/on my cellphone/I want you here with me,” that drag on. Lead singer Brandon Flowers could earn an award for cheesiest lyrics with that song. “Deadlines and Commitments,” while enjoyable, takes their synth-pop a bit too far and wouldn’t seem out of place if it was teleported back to the ’80s.
Thankfully, the Killers regain their ear-pleasing stride. “Be Still” is a haunting ballad in which Flowers demonstrates his impressive vocal range. That calm moment ends with the dramatic closer and title track “Battle Born,” which ends their latest effort as strongly as it started.
Despite its few lows, “Battle Born” is an album that grows on you and requires multiple listens to appreciate. The record deserves the time. The Killers may not be the most hip band out there, but with their latest release, they remind fans they are not to be overlooked.