Review: The Killers, 'Battle Born'
What fuses six producers' work together, besides glitter and tears?
The Killers’ last album “Day & Age” was marked by their further embrace of glitter and dance. New “Battle Born,” in a way, is their ignoring the day and age – that is, this current one.
The Las Vegas quartet has a nostalgia and escapism thing going on in this set, and not just in its lyrics; it has all the Born-to-Run bravado in its anthems while band also ducks down its head and wades unwaveringly into decadent ‘80s power balladry, vocally adept ‘70s arena rock and Depeche Mod-ular synth-pop.
What brings the album up-to-date are some of Brandon Flowers' lyrical flourishes and the big end product: the mix and mastering launches this epic glitter blast out into oblivion. The overdrive on the high ends and amplification of every last note – nuanced or not – acts as the synthesis of a half dozen producers’ work (Steve Lillywhite, Daniel Lanois, Brendan O'Brien among them). So whether the band channels the Traveling Wilburys on shockingly organic “From Here on Out” or simmers with minimal “Be Still” or heads into the desert with Pat Benatar on “The Way It Was,” it all sounds consistently dramatic and loud.
And, frequently, sounds too much the same. The pre-choruses with tambourines and the quarter-note drum builds start to bleed into one another. The misanthropic mascara-tear-stained girls and regrettable misspent youths turn into straw men. The prom-night slow-dances mix up the BPM but occupy the same sonic space as the song after, in that they’re all lush, no grit and pummel the highs.
The highlight, as ever with the band, are from their stadium rockers, starting with immaculate single “Runaways,” as it combines the best parts of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” and Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.” (And I mean this in the best way possible.) The title track, too, tips its hat to Queen, commanding “you can’t stop now” as its instrumental and vocal call-and-response. “Miss Atomic Bomb” should be the next radio add, if just for the blissfully simple refrain “For a second there we won / we were innocent and young.”
The sound of “Battle Born” suits the band, very much, particularly for their live show. It’s the right iteration. If only there were fewer re-iterations.