Album: The Killers – Battle Born
By Joe Goggins
Released: September 18, 2012
Killers frontman Brandon Flowers decided to start a band after seeing Oasis live in concert. It’s something to be commended – Oasis gigs aren’t normally known for inspiring anything more productive than multiple uses for plastic pint glasses – and it’s not difficult to draw parallels between The Killers’ career trajectory and that of their Mancunian idols.
Hot Fuss fizzed with youthful vigour, throwing up tracks like ‘Mr. Brightside’ and ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ that came to define rock music for a generation of fans, just as Definitely Maybe had a decade earlier. The follow-up, Sam’s Town, is their Be Here Now; outrageously overblown, frequently ridiculous and only occasionally as brilliant as its creators pronounced it to be. Day & Age, meanwhile, was the sort of weary, insipid affair that Standing on the Shoulder of Giants represented for Oasis; the sound of a band back in the studio too soon, devoid of ideas and desperate for a break.
For what is, in essence, a comeback record, given Day & Age‘s (deservedly) lukewarm reception, the band go back to the bombastic Americana of Sam’s Town, ditching disco for huge soundscapes and Springsteen-worthy levels of grandiosity. Really, though, the result is quite the opposite; whilst genuine feeling spills out of Springsteen’s records, making them such an exhilarating listen, Battle Born is incredibly contrived, a collection of songs as soulless as the arenas they’re destined to fill.
Lyrically, Flowers strives for fist-pumping passion, but usually falls somewhere between the banal and the absurd – “from the Blue Ridge to the Black Hills to the Redwood sky” he cries on the title track, presumably after having taken the first three suggestions from the Old American Place Name Generator.
Elsewhere, it’s stadium-rock by numbers on ‘A Matter of Time’ and ‘The Rising Tide’, the former hinging on the kind of faux-emotional ‘woahs’ that Mumford and Sons have recently displayed a mastery of. ‘Deadlines and Commitments’ almost engages on the level the band so aspire to, cutting through the rest of the record’s repressively-clean production and proving that Flowers, vocally, is capable of nuance and subtlety, making the rest of the record’s thumping obviousness all the more disappointing.
This fourth record was a chance for The Killers to try to recapture some of what made them sound so exciting on Hot Fuss – unfortunately, Battle Born is much more a Heathen Chemistry than a Morning Glory.