by / September 14th, 2012 /

The Killers – Battle Born

 2/5 Rating


It’s a story that we’ve become all too used to over the years, a band makes a huge impact with an album (often their debut) and then struggles to match it. Each time they come back, however, the talk is all about a return to form and how this is the record to re-establish their credentials. It rarely is. As careers wind on, not many bands (U2, Green Day and a few others) have managed to halt a downward creative slide, even temporarily. Now it’s the turn of The Killers. Hardly an act in commercial crisis, nevertheless if their recent Electric Picnic headline slot proved anything, it was that people love the songs from Hot Fuss above all others. It doesn’t help that, while Sam’s Town had its moments, third album Day & Age was an absolute turkey.

So here we are at Battle Born, already being described as, yes, a return to form. It really isn’t. While Brandon Flowers’ solo jaunt (especially a spirited Oxegen performance) managed to take the band’s widescreen American sound and do something fresh and new with it, The Killers Vol 4 is a hollow, unsatisfactory addition to their catalogue. It needn’t have been that way. ‘Flesh & Bone’ is an oddly stirring opening, leading into the Bruce Springsteen parody / tribute ‘Runaways’. Neither are particularly groundbreaking but are delivered with enough conviction to get away with it.

It only takes a few moments to bring the whole thing crashing down. ‘The Way It Was’ is dreadful, MOR rubbish and ‘Here With Me’ is even worse, as bad as you might expect from any song with the lyric “I don’t want your picture on my cell phone, I want you here with me”. Sadly, Battle Born doesn’t get any better from here. Lowlights are hard to pin down, but ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ is particularly tough and while ‘The Rising Tide’ attempts to bring an edge to the album’s sound (cue noisy, out of place guitar solo), it’s thwarted by syrupy backing vocals.

Battle Born ends, however, as it begins by rising to the level of mediocre. ‘From Here On Out’ has a classic Tom Petty feel to it – although obviously not as good – and the title track closes the album in ridiculously overblown fashion, at least carrying a conviction that the majority of the record is woefully short of. It’s not the misplaced change of direction of Day & Age, but perhaps the fact that Battle Born falls so short when the band are playing to their supposed strengths (and with the help of five big name producers) is even more worrying. “You can’t stop now”, sings Flowers on the final track but if that’s the case for The Killers, they’ve left themselves with a long way go to make it back.

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  • Des T

    They’ve always been crap, Phil. As I wrote in Magill, once upon a time:

    The Killers are over hyped, overrated and over here (Point, Nov. 30th, 2006). Their just-released second album Sam’s Town is their bid for stadium glory, which they clearly plan to achieve by aping Born To Run era Bruce Springsteen and Joshua Tree period U2, without adding anything original of their own. Pretty boy lead singer Brandon Flowers (a name so ridiculous it could only be real) has been known to express patriotic admiration for George Dubya, and they are certainly putting the ‘bigger is better’ philosophy into action here, in their attempt at total world domination. Okay, so they may now be able to fill The Point, but people who get off on this stuff are being sold a pup, in much the same way as are fans of Franz Ferdinand. There is a large difference between being heavily influenced by and indebted to past glories, and then assimilating those influences, making them your own and progressing beyond them in your own unique direction (as a band like Interpol have done with Joy Division), and simply plagiarising something wholesale without using one whit of your own creativity or imagination (as Franz Ferdinand do with just about everybody from Josef K to The Fire Engines to XTC to Talking Heads). The Killers are an American Franz Ferdinand: a dire, awful band more concerned with their hairstyles in photo shoots than with exploring new musical ground.
    * * *
    Speaking of assholes, The Killers (Feb 27th & 28th, 2007, RDS) have already been fulminated against at length in the November instalment of this column. Some people are clearly gluttons for punishment, as these erstwhile Smiths copyists, currently Springsteen copyists, are back on these shores again so soon, and not for one night, but two. The sooner they realise that their true vocation is as a middling, mid-western wedding band, the better for the rest of us.