WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2012|
Posted by: Zoe Marquedant
On some levels, Battle Born is almost too epic for its own good. The album art includes a muscle car, a stallion and a lightening bolt, so listeners have some idea of what they're in for. All that pomp and circumstance results in a powerful album that finds The Killers firing on all cylinders, but not always delivering. One gigantic success is "Flesh and Bone." The track, and the bonus remix, sound like something out of the 80s mixed with the Drive soundtrack and sets the bar high for the rest of the album. Equally good is the power ballad "The Way It Was," in which Flowers croons and swoons and really push his limits as a vocalist. He effortlessly elongates his vowels -- note the "daaaarrling" mid-song -- and really pushes himself. I haven't heard that much energy from him since Hot Fuss.
The internal world of Battle Born is a bustling place. The shots of Americana and the dustland fairytales of Day & Age come back into play, but as fully formed ideas. Battle Born is written like a modern fairytale of the American west. The Killers channel a Bruce Springsteen-esque America. With young lovers "torn from the cloth / of a flag that bares the name / battle born" frequenting street corners and airstrips. It's life in a desolate place, more specifically Nevada, through the eyes of glam-rock's favorite sons. These visual themes are strung through the tracks paired with reoccurring melodies create a sense of continuity. The repeated image, like that of a girl "standing with your girlfriends in the street" comes up in several songs and contributes to the cast of characters living within Battle Born. With added name drops of deserts, dust and neon lights, you know it's a Killers album through and through.
Battle Born in an album built on imagery. This grungey picture is fleshed out in the more narrative songs like "Runaways" and "Miss Atomic Bomb." Those two songs in particular are the album's biggest draws. There is an unstoppable amount of energy in "Runaways". My only problem with it is Brandon Flower's occasional overemphasized h's (he really "HAUNTS those halls.") Another place where we see the band's ambition and skill shine through is "Battle Born" and "The Rising Time." The majority of Battle Born is the same epic, stadium-sized song as "Flesh and Bone" and "Runaways."
The problem with Battle Born is cohesive consistency. A lot of time and effort is spent building these powerful songs, only to drop all that energy three minutes later. Songs, like the almost soulful "Heart of a Girl," cut the momentum in an borderline abrupt way, juxtaposing the high energy carried by tracks like "Matter of Time." These transitions and edges are smoothed out in part by the reoccurrence of certain melodies, played out on the synth and drums, which provide the much needed sense of continuity.
However, some of the softer slower jams majorly miss the mark. These aren't 'bad' songs per say just good songs with unnecessary elements. "Be Still" is an overall elegant and motivating track that unfortunately drops off every time the electronics kick in. The same can be said for "Deadlines and Commitments," which is the most skip-able song on the album. Lyrically, it offers almost too much heart. At times Flower's lyrics are almost saturated with emotion. This bare-all over-simplified technique tends to result in dull lines like, "Don't want your picture on my cellphone / I want you here with me." Show, Brandon, don't tell.