Music Reviews
Battle Born

The Killers Battle Born

(Island Records) Rating - 8/10

Ever since The Killers arrived on the scene with Hot Fuss back in 2004, they’ve struggled to reclaim the popularity and acclaim that album received. Their latest effort, Battle Born, doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it comes close.

Battle Born is the sound of The Killers embracing who they are. Unlike the reactionary Day & Age, this record fully embraces the group’s Springsteen and U2 worshipping ways. Sure, it sounds like the sequel to Sam’s Town and in a way, it is. However, the band isn’t anywhere near as self-serious. Instead of morose intensity, you’ll find uninhibited joy for the music they’ve created.

Look at the first single, Runaways, for all the evidence you need. The song begins with the type of outer space synth that’s usually accompanied by the lines “Space, the final frontier…” An acoustic guitar makes its way out over the stars, arriving at Brandon Flowers’ passionate vocals. The slow build erupts as he belts out the lines, “We can’t wait for tomorrow!” over Ronnie Vannucci Jr.’s galloping drums. This is “Born to Run”, Killers-style.

Although it might sound ridiculous given that he’s the band’s most prominent member, but this really is the singer’s album. Vocally, he puts on a stunning performance in nearly every number.Deadlines and Commitments finds him teetering on the edge of his falsetto and regular range, switching between them with easy. He still doesn’t rank among the top lyricists but there’s nothing here as groan-worthy as “Are we human or are we dancer?” Flowers’ gift has always been making words that look average or cheesy on paper sound amazing on record. When he sings “I want you here with me”, he pours on the gravitas so well that you can believe the sentiment. But he can also toss off little vocal loops like how he says “appeal” on Runaways that suggests playfulness behind the microphone.

The rest of the band has evolved along with their singer. The rhythm section of Vannucci Jr. and bassist Mark Stoermer reaches a peak on Miss Atomic Bomb, their tight performance continuously driving the song forward through a few different patterns. Dave Keuning’s guitar work can move from the 80s power rock of The Way It Was to the slow-build repeating riff of Battle Born. Both come off as complete natural.

That’s the best way to sum up Battle Born. Unlike some songs on the last couple records, nothing here comes off as forced. It’s surprising, given the difficult gestation period this album went through. But if this is the type of result a struggle in the studio gives them, let’s hope it happens far more often in the future.