The Killers - Battle Born | Album Review | By Volume

What is this life, why do we strive? Fast on a wheel, too fast to feel. One day, my love, this life will slow. Sam Brookes - One Day
battle born

The Killers

Battle Born

Nobody notices a fire in an exploding building.

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Author: on September 16, 2012
September 18, 2012

We can live in hope, I guess, that the Pacman-esque intro to opener “Flesh And Bone” is a last hurrah for The Killers’ fleeting love of all things electronic, and maybe we can focus on the good stuff. Even though I liked “Human”, as a song in this band’s canon it was an absolute anomaly, and thus Day & Age found itself in this in-between world where Flowers and company wanted to be this odd cabaret rock group in lieu of being able to capture the youthful explosions of their debut Hot Fuss. That “Runaways”, the lead single from this new record, should start like a Don Henley song and remind me at numerous junctures of Meat Loaf is, even to leave aside the song’s quality, a good sign. For while it seems that The Killers will almost certainly never again release a song as truly dramatic and breathless as “Mr. Brightside”, they at least sound entirely capable of coming close to “When You Were Young”, which is no mean feat.

But alas, the “Enterlude” poise of Sam’s Town is nowhere to be found on Battle Born, the kind of big-picture album- and song-writing that conjured “Uncle Johnny” and “This River Is Wild” from the same collection of anthems so dearly missed in the horizon-feigning echoes of this sound, which is clearly not meant to sound new. What Battle Born fails to realise about that American landscape which people have surrounded with Springsteen whispers is that it allowed itself expanses and new ideas within that dusty mist. The Springsteen Vs. Las Vegas ideal is not enough in and of itself, as is evidenced by tracks like the plodding “Here With Me”. What’s missing is the personality of songs like “Bones”, the conviction of those horns traded in for the most submissive vocal chants and the confident tone of the lyrics substituted for some dead-beat dime-a-dozen narrative with no character to hook onto.

By the time “Heart of a Girl” trudges onto the scene, it stands out simply for the fact that it doesn’t attempt to “soar”, a concept which by that point has become terribly laboured and hackneyed. And still, you can hear Flowers straining, tussling with the chains of not being overwrought, desperate to “explode”. This is the sound of a band on auto-pilot. Their inherent talent still propels it to some affecting moments and the occasional great climax, but it nevertheless exists in a sea of itself, impossible to truly recall or dig your teeth into. I don’t know what “Deadlines and Commitments” is on about, and the song doesn’t even make me want to find out. Though it was pleasant as it bounced past, re-listening feels like it would be a chore. Try telling that to my hundred listens of Sam’s Town and Hot Fuss. I’m all for the band returning to this world where the guys are chivalrous and the jewels glitter and it sounds ridiculous but it’s fucking fine. But it needs substance, not just volume. Nobody notices a fire in an exploding building.

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