Since their 2004 debut album “Hot Fuss,” The Killers have led the revival of ’80s trends in current music. Unlike other ‘80s-inspired groups, The Killers have made the full transition from post-punk, synth-pop musings to full-blown ’80s stadium rock. Its newest record, “Battle Born,” is the culmination of that evolution.
Frontman Brandon Flowers recognized this fact in a recent interview with the United Kingdom’s DailyMail, mentioning how the band is “ditching disco and going back to rock” with “Battle Born.” But the new set of rock anthems and ballads seems contrived at best.
The album starts out with “Flesh and Bone,” an attempt to construct a cinematic introduction with classical arpeggios folding into the song’s heavily produced synth-drum set chorus. “What are you afraid of/ And what are you made of?” Flowers asks, to which a chorus of men’s voices replies, “Flesh and bone.” The song is catchy and does what it sets out to achieve, but exudes a contrived sense of drama that is absent in earlier hits from the band’s first two albums: “Hot Fuss” and “Sam’s Town.” Many of the songs on the album suffer from the same overproduction and forced emotion, a result of the band’s attempt to sell itself as a stadium-packing rock band.
Like their third album, “Day and Age,” “Battle Born” replaces the unique, catchy guitar riffs and bass lines that helped make the band successful with ubiquitous background synths and ambiences produced in the studio.
That’s not to say the album does not have its strong points. “Miss Atomic Bomb” is easily the album’s best track, with airy guitars and heavy, ’80s pop chord changes reminiscent of the more successful parts of Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto” from last year. One of the album’s other ballads, “Be Still,” is also intriguing, but uninspired lyrics like “Is this real or just a dream” and “Be still, wild and young” make the result more than a little cloying.
While the album has reaffirmed the group’s status as a team of musically talented and experienced songwriters, The Killers ultimately seem to have let their success get ahead of them with “Battle Born.” The band’s songwriting has become more reliant on the continuing trend of ’80s atavism than on genuine creativity, and its desire to produce anthems appears to be standing in the way of its potential.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Patrick Jaojoco is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]