With the release of their fourth studio album, Battle Born, The Killers have moved into a new stage in the band’s lifetime — middle age. But they’ve averted crisis this time; it’s the same old Brandon Flowers and company delivering anthems, ballads and powerful guitar movements.
Battle Born is somewhat of a departure from previous endeavors — although it retains many of the characteristics Killers fans have become used to — and it delivers on all fronts. This is not the radio rock of Hot Fuss, nor is it the gloves-off crunch of Sam’s Town or the space-ier Day & Age. Battle Born is both a return to roots and an amalgamation of past efforts.
Battle Born (a phrase which appears on the state flag of Nevada, the band’s home state) marks the end of the band’s four-year hiatus, but The Killers appear to have come together quite nicely to put this record together. In fact, their break may have been a nice breather; the band seems loose and fresh in this recording. It makes sense considering their productivity — after the release of Day & Age in 2008, they had released three studio albums and a compilation album all in fewer than five years.
The album’s main theme is one of toughness and perseverance. On the title and final track, Flowers sings, “You’re up against the wall/Something dying on the street/When they knock you down/You’re going to get back on your feet,” suggesting the tried and true “back on the horse” ideas are in full force here. It’s not the most creative moral, but for The Killers it certainly works, and, more importantly, it sounds good.
The album kicks off with “Flesh and Bone,” a track that asks the essential question, “What are you made of?” and answers it with “flesh and bone.” It serves as a steady reminder that we are basically walking bags of meat — something of a return to basics philosophically before diving into the rest of the album.
The following track is the album’s first single, “Runaways,” a predictably catchy tune — standard Killers fare. The next two, “The Way it Was” and “Here with Me,” are reliable Flowers ballads, built around uplifting chord progressions and the keyboard work. The album picks up significantly on “A Matter of Time,” which changes form multiple times but is solid throughout, especially in the last two minutes, where Flowers writes of a relationship that has bitten the dust: “It was a matter of time/Can’t you see that it’s tearing me up inside?/Look what’s laying at our feet/That’s the wreckage of broken dreams.”
But the makers of Battle Born make it clear grit and resolution are to be praised here. On the next track, “Deadlines and Commitments,” Flowers sings, “If you should ever tire/Or if you should require/A sudden simple twist of fate/Don’t hide away/There’s something to be said for pushing through.” These lines demonstrate Battle Born’s theme to the core. The track itself is a classic Killers jam, with a throbbing bass solo and ’80s-sounding anthemic choruses.
The rest of the album proves to be well worth the wait. “The Rising Tide,” “Heart of a Girl” and “Battle Born” are all especially worth listens and are standouts on the already stacked album. The final track ties together the album’s theme and provides a radical conclusion to an album that is somehow both classic Killers and something new.