The Killers – Battle Born


Artist

Album

Battle Born

Label

Island/Vertigo

Year

2012

Genre

For Fans Of

Brandon Flowers - The Strokes

Summary

After four years out, Battle Born is a return to form.

Rating

74 / 100

Four years and a scarily long hiatus later, 2008’s ‘Day & Age’ finally met its successor. As sure as the sun will rise, the latest record from The Killers is soaked in the Americana and unashamed love for their beloved Nevada that we’ve come to expect from them after all these years. The maturity of Battle Born‘ will go unappreciated to the casual consumer, but for someone like myself, who has followed them since day dot, it’s yet another stride forward and their most masterful record since ‘Sam’s Town.’

As Brandon and Co. promoted and marketed ‘Battle Born‘ in the months leading up to its release, the cheese-encrusted trailers they produced, which featured them looking brooding around a campfire in the desert, featured a distinct, catchy synthesizer riff that’d later become ‘Flesh and Bone‘, the record’s opening salvo.

Much like the rest of the record, the track captures little pieces of what made the first few records great. The aforementioned spine of the track, in the synthesizer lead, is ripped straight from the Hot Fuss‘ era, whereas the dirty, almost unnoticed, guitar leads during the second verse call to mind the glory days of ‘Sam’s Town.’ ‘Flesh and Bone manages to be a four-minute best-of from the Nevada quartet and, to me, will go down as their very best. It’s perfectly The Killers.

It’s followed up by the record’s lead single, ‘Runaways‘, which is led by the group’s enigmatic and ever energized front man Brandon Flowers, who hits this track like a freight train. The bridge that begins At night I come home after they go to sleep,’ is one of Flowers most powerful moments since his brass-supported verses in ‘Bones‘ from a couple of albums ago. 

Battle Born‘ then takes a brief return journey to a Day & Age-esque vibe, as ‘The Way It Was‘ saps the energy out of the record set in place by the two opening tracks. It’s upbeat enough, but it’s just not nearly as interesting and places Flowers on a leash. It’s followed up by the even slower ballad, ‘Here With Me‘. It’s a track of two halves, one plain and the other slightly less so. It’s a piano driven arrangement until it is joined by a large accompaniment by the end. I probably wouldn’t be deterred by these songs so much if they weren’t bookended by such energetic and fun tracks.

Speaking of which, A Matter of Time‘ comes next and is, perhaps, the record’s second strongest song. It’s another throwback to the era of ‘Sam’s Town,’ as Ronnie Vannucci’s rolling toms drive the verses into fantastic choruses. But where the song shines brightest is in its final minute, where it provides closure lyrically to the bittersweet songs that came before, starting with Runaways‘, as they all seem to paint the picture of a troubled relationship. If intended, it’s a lovely conceptual touch. ‘Deadlines and Commitments has a laid back, chilled feel to it.  However, it’s a one tricky pony and doesn’t really amount to anything worth writing home about.

Among the last handful of songs are a couple of out-of-character songs for The Killers. Both ‘Heart of a Girl‘ and ‘From Here on Out‘ have a slight country, or even bluegrass, feel to them. The former is a much slower, uplifting offering whereas the latter is a clucky, fresh effort that calls to mind ‘Folkin’ Around‘ from Panic At The Disco’s ‘Pretty. Odd.‘ record, and how bizarrely out of place that felt.

The album’s title track closes proceedings. Though the title is a reference to Nevada, as it was born out of the Civil War conflict, I feel as though Battle Born‘ could be The Killers’ commentary on the state of America, in general; it’s possible, as they’re not ones to shy away from their political agenda, after all. It could be time to stop the pussyfooting, America. I mean, The Killers put it best – “boy, you was battle born.”

Conclusion

Though there’s flashes of the lofty ‘Sam’s Town’ glory these guys were once capable of, it lacks the consistency that made that record an iconic piece of music. That’s not to say that ‘Battle Born’ is a failure, quite the contrary, it’s a wonderful return for The Killers. It sits on a shelf higher than ‘Day & Age,’ and that’s all one could have asked for.

Tracklisting

  1. Flesh and Bone
  2. Runaways
  3. The Way It Was
  4. Here With Me
  5. A Matter of Time
  6. Deadlines and Commitments
  7. Miss Atomic Bomb
  8. The Rising Tide
  9. Heart of a Girl
  10. From Here On Out
  11. Be Still
  12. Battle Born

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