Album Review: The Killers ‘Battle Born’

The Killers still feel like a young band. Granted, they are only in their thirties, but they manage to feel even younger, like twenty-somethings or even teenagers, poking at life with a long stick and exploring music and expression with great passion. They do it with respect for their own songs though, and they take albums very seriously, which is maybe the only difference between The Killers and the hundreds of bands that sound exactly like them.

Battle Born is a record of personal growth, and a story told from the perspective of a man seeming much older than Brandon Flowers. The album begins with the sort of simple beeping and booping you might expect from The Killers, then moves to a disconcerting electronic toy piano, sounding almost vampiric, as Flowers begins the long self-interview that seems to make up this record. ‘Flesh and Bone’ is a mission statement on one of the album’s themes of hardening oneself, manning up and dealing with life.

‘Runaways’ feels like a second movement to the opener. This is one of the two songs that the band has described as being the backbone of the album, the other one being ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’, another song that could be about the same woman, or looking back on lost love as a guide on how to lose it. It’s interesting to me to note the commonality between these two important, foundational tracks, and the difference between them and some of the other songs on the record, which can be much more internally focused and often more masculine.

The album has a remarkable flow, telling a coherent story on very earthly things. Once the first two more general, anthemic songs are out of the way, the album gets a lot more specific, and a lot more personal. It’s probably not entirely a true story, but it has the feeling at least of belonging to a single character.

‘The Way It Was’ feels like a song of frustration for a dying relationship, or one that has already ended. He’s looking back on the way things went wrong and the fact that they really didn’t have to end at all, and he seems to struggle to accept this as reality. ‘Here with Me’ continues the tale, but now he’s directly asking, if not begging, to have those good times back. ‘A Matter of Time’ cements this feeling of denial and delusion, but it’s hard to find fault with its hopefulness in the end.

‘Heart of a Girl’ explores another side of a man’s relationship with the women in his life, about a father who wants to be good to his daughter, show her love and appreciation, and to listen to her. This seems to be related to the relationship that ended, as if since he screwed up with his lady he is going to make it all up to his girl. It could reveal the album’s story as entirely fictitious, since Brandon Flowers has three sons and no daughters, but the writing credit goes to five different people for this one.

‘From Here On Out’ looks forward with positivity, while ‘Be Still’ is a warning that the road ahead might be unpredictable, careful to remind that for all of the hard times to come there will also be moments of bliss and glory. Just keep calm, keep your head on straight, and be open to the world. A little generic, but a message that feels appropriate at this stage.

The album ends with the title track, ‘Battle Born’, as if to say that the fight is just beginning. It makes a lot of sense for this to come at the end of the album’s journey, as one has to go through a whole lot to get to that place and mindset. It’s hard to say what lies ahead for The Killers, but for as fraught as they appear to be with emotion here, they are musically in a very good place.

Release Date: September 18, 2012
Image Courtesy of Island

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