Battle Born is the fourth studio album from the The Killers, and marks the steady descent of their sound with a quality somewhat like that of U2’s “No Line On The Horizon,” Muse’ latest singles, or Lou Reed’s recent collaboration with Metallica, “Lulu.” That is to say, it’s god-awful.
The album has some strong classic Killers moments: “Runaways” driving drumbeat has momentum from the whole band where they work together to build up suspense towards the climax of the song. The keyboard has taken more of a leading role than on their previous works, particularly with the intro of “Flesh and Bone” sounding like some sort of electronic timer. However, any anticipation created in the first 15 seconds is resolved too quickly with a feel-good cliché chorus underlined by simplistic chord progressions and overproduced backing vocals. “Here with Me” is a slow ballad style song that is all about Flowers’ voice: It is very good, but may as well have been a solo song, with the band making so little contribution.
The combination of Flowers’ voice dominating, the lack of passion from the band and the crisp overproduction make for an album that sounds very much like a Christian rock band determined not to offend anyone, but at the same time not engaging anyone either. Their album trajectory at this point could be compared to that of The Kings of Leon: starting young and full of excitement, become famous and self indulgent, and end up with something so simple it’s boring. Having said all that, the Killers still have potential to be exciting and engaging, they just didn’t get there this time. This record’s lyrics feel overcooked and yet incredibly simple, which makes for some very cringeworthy moments, where you almost feel embarrassed for them. The label ‘rock band’ is lost in a deluge of simplicity and over-emphasised vocals.
If you are a hardcore Killers fan you will probably enjoy this album, but if you aspire for more depth in your music, this album is not for you. The passion and excitement of Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town has been lost. It’s a shame when genuine talent is traded in exchange for self-indulgence, as has happened here.