After a short hiatus in which various members of the band embarked on solo careers with ranging success, the Las Vegas foursome have returned with their fourth studio album. In contrast to their third album Day and Age – a heady, experimental mixture of pop, funk and dance-rock, Battle Born feels like a simplified rock and roll album, heavy on epic guitar riffs and made to hear live.
With hints of their Springsteen influenced second record, Sam’s Town, Americana is alive and well throughout this album, with first single Runaways being a prime example. The opening lyrics, ‘blonde hair blowing in the summer wind’, sets up the small-town, teenage love story and is accompanied by a suitably sing-along chorus. Similarly, title track Battle Born (a phrase on the Nevada state flag – a nod to their roots) boasts an impressive, stadium ready opening that isn’t a million miles away from The Who’s famously epic Baba O’Reily. Add to that lyrics like ‘your star-spangled heart took a train for the coast’ and you’ve got yourself a track that is made to be performed.
However, it would be unfair to dismiss the album as a simple homage to The Boss or just another American rock album; it is still undoubtedly, and, very distinctively, The Killers. The tracks, although heavy on the guitars, are littered with the 80s style synthy goodness we have come to associate with the band since the decadent indie glam of first album Hot Fuss. You can also always count on charismatic front man Brandon Flowers to perk up even the drabbest of lyrics with his unique, sultry vocals.
The album as a whole feels slick and well-produced and fans of the band who have been eagerly anticipating the album will surely not be disappointed by this 12 track record that is packed with hits. However, it also feels a bit safe, slightly lacklustre and a million miles away from their electric debut. No one can say that The Killers are a one-sound band, but I fear they are one of those bands that has fallen victim to the curse of ‘the perfect first album’, reaching a peak with Hot Fuss that they will forever struggle to match.