First Impressions: The Killers ‘Battle Born’
The Killers fourth album ‘Battle Born’ isn’t out until September 14, but to tide you over here’s our rundown of its 11 tracks.
Named after the words emblazoned on the state flag of their home state Nevada, The Killers’ first album in four years was pieced together by a veritable “who’s who” of rock producers including Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, Damian Taylor, Stuart Price and Brendan O’Brien.
“It’s the longest we’ve ever taken to make a record, and the longest I’ve ever spent on the lyrics,” said frontman Brandon Flowers. “We thought we had enough songs, but then we realised that we didn’t, and so we had to pound away and grind it out until we were certain that we were ready.”
1. ‘Flesh And Bone’
The album opens with what sounds like a heart monitor, which fits in nicely with Brandon Flowers’ refrain in the chorus. “What are you made of?” he sings, before answering himself in multi-part self-harmony: “Flesh and bone.” An epic opener with arpeggiated keyboards, call-and-response vocals and a disco-y bridge that comes out of nowhere. Purpose-built to fill arenas.
The album’s first single, with more Springsteen-isms than The Hold Steady and The Gaslight Anthem combined. A song about a flawed romance between a “blue-eyed girl” and a guy with a “tendency to slip when the nights get wild”. He’s desperate to rekindle the spark, but he knows they’re running out of time. “Let’s take a chance baby,” he begs, while presumably revving up a beat-up old Chevy in the driveway. “We can’t lose.” For those who rate ‘When You Were Young’ as The Killers definitive single, not ‘Mr Brightside’.
3. ‘The Way It Was’
Our hero is now hightailing it through the desert contemplating what went wrong: “Maybe if a thief stole your heart? Or maybe we just drifted apart?” Another huge chorus. Do they sneeze these out, or what?
4. ‘Here With Me’
A massive power ballad that’ll make you think of Bon Jovi’s ‘Always’. Up to you whether that’s a good thing or not. Rest assured, “Don’t want your picture on my cellphone/I want you here with me”, will be soundtracking deb ball slowdances for many many years to come.
5. ‘A Matter Of Time’
To borrow a term from MasterChef, Mark Stoermer’s pulsating bass is the star of this dish; a shape-shifting mid-tempo number with lots of “woah oh ohs”, vivid imagery and yet more driving references (there’s probably a reason why there’s a car on the cover). This one’s brimming with tension: “Just walking through the front door makes me nervous.” Will our hero ever win his girl back?
6. ‘Deadlines And Commitments’
The most synth-y, ‘80s-sounding moment yet. A rousing chorus that sees Flowers extending a neighbourly hand: “If you should fall upon hard times/If you should lose your way/There is a place here in this house that you can stay.” Awes. Stoermer gets to cut loose on the bass again during a mid-song breakdown, and it sounds like someone’s brought some rototoms to the party as well.
7. ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’
Not a song about the apocalypse, but an ode to the innocence of teenage romance (“Making out/We got the radio on/You gonna miss me when I’m gone”). An impassioned slow-builder with pounding drums and, yes, another catchy chorus. Ends with Flowers singing over himself.
8. ‘The Rising Tide’
This one opens with 45 seconds of squelchy synths, but it’s just a ruse, paving the way for the first pure pop song of the record. And it’s awesome: Pumping bass notes, chiming guitars, ‘80s keys and a Gospel-ish “hallelujah” thrown in for good measure.
9. ‘Heart Of A Girl’
The band pays homage to The Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane’, slowing it down to a crawl like the Cowboy Junkies 1988 cover (see below). A tender moment between a father and his daughter: “Daddy, daddy daddy/All my life/I’ve been trying to find my place in the world.”
10. ‘From Here On Out’
Easily the shortest song on the record; a snappy bit of pop that opens with slide and acoustic guitars, and ends up sounding like one of Lindsey Buckingham’s songs for Fleetwood Mac. The subject matter’s a touch less earnest, and there are handclaps in the chorus: “Hey, from here on out/Friends are going to be hard to come by.” Another hallelujah. That Flowers sure is a religious guy.
11. ‘Be Still’
From the sparse opening verse, you just know this one’s going to build into something gigantic – but it doesn’t, settling into a light acoustic ballad instead. “Don’t break character,” Flowers sings in the chorus, “You’ve got a lot of heart.” This one shows they’re not just about bombast, but restraint.
12. ‘Battle Born’
Those Pete Townshend ‘Baba O’Riley’ ring-outs are put to good use in the intro. An appropriately climactic closer with Queen-esque harmonies (you know, the ones appropriated by Muse) and some parting advice from Flowers: “When they knock you down/You’re gonna get back on your feet.” Closes with about a minute of piano and ambient noise.
This could well be the definitive Killers record, a synthesis of all that came before it: Hot Fuss and it’s pent-up New Wave energy, the character-driven storytelling and classic rock of Sam’s Town and the playful bombast of Day & Age.
Battle Born is out in September through Universal Music. FL is hosting listening parties in Melbourne and Sydney for the album. To win a double pass click here.