The first track on their fourth studio album, Battle Born, is a tentative introduction; looking back on Flowers “white knuckle ride” over the past few years. The chorus is strong with backing vocals, half-chanting, half-singing the track’s title, ‘Flesh And Bone’. Like many Killers lyrics, they feature a complex narrative, matched to a diverse vocal melody, but a tune catchy enough to enjoy. ‘Runaways’ is a great track. There are many reasons it was chosen as the first single, one of them being the feel-good nature it exudes, despite a heartbreaking story.
Building from this would always be tough. Therefore, The Killers decided to not bother with ‘The Way It Was’, which sounds like it could feature on the soundtrack to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Although it’s dated, the song does display brilliant song writing conventions, beginning with a supreme narrative. But ballads have never been the strongest feather in The Killers hat. Even when they have good lyricism, the band just seems dull on tracks like ‘Here With Me’. It is tracks like ‘A Matter of Time’ that the Las Vegas four show what they are capable of. Good rock music. The quicker pace, the stage-musical-like chord patterns and song construction sets up The Killers to be one of this planet’s greatest groups. It is such a shame they fill their albums with other crap.
The abstract nature of ‘Deadlines and Commitments’ would normally fall in to the ‘crap’ category but Battle Born does show maturity from The Killers. They churn out less crap when it comes to writing their more unique songs.
‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ is a beautiful love song, with thoughtful lyrics, even if the reverberating sound of The Killers does start becoming difficult to trudge through. Unfortunately, it is ‘The Rising Tide’ that harkens back toward churning out the first sound they stumble along, in their ‘lets make an album’ mindset. The indie-punk guitars are a good sound, and they develop in to something a lot more distorted which works, but juxtaposing that is the keyboard bashing. This makes The Killers sound more like Keane than something the planet’s greatest group would release.
Keeping it simple is their best option, which is what made songs like ‘Mr. Brightside’ so successful. Defenders might say artists should grow, but adding layers that fill up space and cause song-claustrophobia for every other instrument isn’t growing, it’s spreading, something a disease does.
‘Heart Of A Girl’ is not a bad song, but ‘From Here On Out’ encapsulates the idea of growing. The song is in a new direction but maintains The Killers definitive sound. The lyrics are typically brilliant, and the country guitars, mixed with the occasional modern productive technique is sheer brilliance, and a future single if the management want to continue selling Battle Born.
Equally, ‘Be Still’ is a simplistic performance, but one that allows Brandon Flowers to blossom vocally. His powerful, but fragile voice dominates the sound that should have been the finale on this marmite-like album. Instead The Killers return for a 5-minute title-track, that doesn’t disappoint. The volume of ‘Battle Born’ is overpowering, and features an anthem-like chorus, with backing harmonies that, at times, would impress the remaining members of Queen.
Battle Born is as good in places, as it is bad in others. The Killers have never been one to conform. Their sound is unique and doesn’t please everybody, and Battle Born is no different. But with a little more direction on certain aspects of their sound, The Killers have the potential to please a much wider audience. That is, part of their attraction, but again, it is also part of their downfall. Clearly, something The Killers were born with.