By Kenny McMurtrie
“Do I like The Killers?”, or, maybe more aptly, “how much do I …?”, is a question fans of rock music (in the widest sense) have had to ask themselves for a few years now. On a personal level I bought their first five singles on 7″ (I’m a sucker for coloured vinyl) before it dawned on me that they were not going to provide me with music as hard as their name implied. Months after album number one, Hot Fuss, came out I heard it by accident, in a sense, all the way through and what they were up to all fell into place. The same process, minus the outlay on singles, began again with Sam’s Town – no effort made to hear the album and then eventually, after enough sightings of one or other video culled from the work, a full listening brought me up to speed with where the band were at and again it worked for me. Since then their third album Day & Age has sort of passed me by, but I’d a minor epiphany walking home in the snow two winters ago with Brandon Flowers’ Flamingo coming through my headphones.
Cutting to the chase, I was more excited by the prospect of reviewing Battle Born than by other recent releases – early single ‘Runaways’ was strong and another review of the album has described the songs as having “choruses you can see from space”, which sounded like a pretty epic work was being unleashed. My take on it is then … er, less than epic but not in a completely negative sense and not without being aware of its redemptive features. As I type this part the final, title, track is playing and it is epic in the same way as Queen were – it fizzles out rather than ending with aplomb. Better go back to the start in that case.
Initially it sounds like M’s ‘Pop Music’ with the little bleeps that start off ‘Flesh And Bone’, but within two minutes the needle on the meter’s reached that four letter word beginning with E. Cue air guitar. Simple Minds at their Breakfast Club best spring to mind. Next up is ‘Runaways’ which I’m presuming by now I’m in a minority of hearing in less than double figures so I’ll pass over commenting on it. It does make me think though that if it’s true that The Gaslight Anthem are Bruce Springsteen’s favourite punk band (with the term being used loosely here) then The Killers are surely his favourite torchbearers for the less angry, love song element of his output.
Nostalgia for an age not yet past is a strong thread in the group’s song structures and lyrics, and they mine that seam to good effect on ‘The Way It Was’ (I like to think the title’s a pun of sorts) but this is another song that fades out too soon, thereby setting the trend for the denoument nine tracks later. Things fluctuate before then though – ‘A Matter Of Time’, ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’, ’The Rising Tide’ and ‘From Here On Out’ (Traveling Wilburys anybody?) are all upbeat, even jaunty at times, solid slices of 21st century pop rock, whilst the odd numbered tracks generally come in at a slower and less rewarding pace. Kings Of Leon have for whatever reason been trying to edge towards the sounds produced herein and look where that’s got them – meanwhile, The Killers have regrouped and seamlessly taken up where they left off; you’ve either got it or you haven’t.
This review was written under the influence of beers, cheeses and, latterly, tea and the angle of Flowers’ photo in the CD inlay bears rather too much resemblance to Peter Andre (its that new hair do and lack of ‘tache) but neither of those facts should detract from the unalloyed enjoyment that the bulk of this album will bring to those of you that see fit to get your hands on it. For myself I’d say that the answer to the question posed at the start of this piece is a yes with a small y.