On 'Battle Born,' the Killers hint at past greatness


By Chloe Stachowiak, Daily Music Editor
Published September 19, 2012

When The Killers released Hot Fuss eight years ago, there’s no way the Las Vegas band could have anticipated the tidal wave of popularity it would generate from a younger generation of listeners. What started out unassuming enough — a baby faced singer, guitars and some dance beats — stole the eyes and ears of tweens and teens everywhere, and it wasn’t long before the band’s hits blasted from as many radio stations as it did speakers at high school dances. Hot Fuss was an album of easy rhythms and untamed energy, one that could define an entire generation with its simple lyrics about being in love and having fun.

The Killers

Battle Born

Think about it: There’s a pretty good chance you listened to “Somebody Told Me” while you got ready for a football game your first year of high school, pumping yourself up with the song’s aggressive chorus before you nervously pushed through the crowd of bleating band instruments and cheering strangers. You may have played “All These Things That I’ve Done” on a mix CD your first time behind the wheel of a car, finding some kind of strength and reassurance by screaming “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” into the dashboard. And you may have even found comfort in “Mr. Brightside” during periods of emotional turmoil — like that time you thought your boyfriend was into the girl in your math class and you stayed at home listening to sad music instead of talking to him about it.

Hot Fuss carved itself into our memoryscapes with every energetic twist and turn that The Killers delivered — unfortunately for today’s younger crowd, their newest album isn’t quite as memorable. The first break in the band’s silence since the 2008, Battle Born lacks the addictive melodies and star-studded track listing of its predecessor: It may sparkle in places, but unlike the band’s past work, this album doesn’t shine all the way through.

“Flesh and Bone” kicks the album off to a promising enough start — the song is captivating as its ’80s-style synth line explodes into musical chaos. It’s a chilling track, especially when vocalist Brandon Flowers cries out into the icy drumbeat and keyboard effects. The Killers are as catchy they’ve always been, but they sound more grown up than ever.

The breathtaking “Runaways” also bleeds maturity, taking what would be a typical pop song about young love and tangling it with nostalgia and seriousness. Lines like “I swear on the head of our unborn child” add more dimension to an otherwise upbeat melody; the song will linger in your head like most of the band’s hits, yet the hauntingly personal lyrics will claw their way deeper than “Somebody Told Me” ever could.

But even with showstoppers like “Flesh and Bone” and “Runaways,”Battle Born doesn’t live up to the Hot Fuss hype. It’s not that the songs are musically offensive — it’s easy to listen to every drum crash and electric melody without pressing “skip” — but somewhere after the fourth synth breakdown and fifth song about unrequited love, things take a turn for the boring. Tracks like “Miss Atomic Bomb” and “Be Still” are fine, but nothing more. Battle Born fades into a pleasant but underwhelming drone, not the punchy list of singles the band is capable of producing.

People probably won’t be talking about Battle Born eight years from now. They won’t catch themselves humming its melodies while they get ready for work and they won’t associate its words with reckless memories from when they were younger. It’s a decent album that’s downright stunning at times, but it’s not worth forever holding onto — instead, it’s a signal to thank The Killers for everything they’ve done, listen to their older music when the moment is right and invite a new band to define generations to come.