For the better part of the past decade, The Killers have been a staple on both rock and Top-40 radio. Their catchy hooks and melodic synth pop has built the Las Vegas-based outfit a sizeable following, with some ambitiously comparing them to U2. After four years, the band’s latest album, Battle Born, picks up with the familiar sound that fans are accustomed to.
Opening up with haunting synths would seem like an ominous sign for any other band, but “Flesh and Bone” explodes into an arena-ready sound less than a minute into the album. Once you get past The Legend of Zelda-esque synths and listen to singer Brandon Flowers booming vocals, you realize the band is back. The music is understated, which for many bands could be a problem. As they knows by now, the formula that works best for them is letting Flowers play the proverbial Bono role as the charismatic singer while everyone else works within that structure. As the song builds, other instruments get involved leading to anthemic song, and strong way for the band to show fans that they’re back.
First single “Runaways” marks a different direction for the group. It begins curiously like a bloated ‘70s ballad before it takes a sharp left turn by adding elements of ‘80s dance pop and rock. For some bands, fusing these moving parts into a cohesive song can be a challenge, but not these guys. Though it’s not one of their best songs (even on this album), The Killers’ ambition is what made them so unique and spawned many followers who can’t quite blend moving parts like this song can.
Unlike other bands, The Killers had an all-star cast of producers at their disposal, which includes Steve Lillywhite, Damian Taylor, Brendan O’Brien, Stuart Price and Daniel Lanois. “Here With Me,” a track produced by O’Brien, is heavier and isn’t as reliant on synths as the others and shows potential if they were to become a no-frills rock band. Though it’s a slower ballad, this song as an anthemic as anything they’ve done. Yes, the sound may be bloated and over the top, but if The Killers want to become an arena rock staple, there’s a need for songs like this.
A four-year break has been good for The Killers. Naturally there some moments where having too producers and visions hurts them, but for the most part, the band sticks to the formula that’s worked in the past. While Flowers’ lyrics will never be confused for Springsteen’s and the instrumentation with Radiohead, it doesn’t that the band can’t achieve its place amongst arena rock bands. Battle Born may not be their best album or their most original, but not every one can be.