If you love The Killers because of their ability to simultaneously embrace and thumb their noses at the kitschiness in music, then the side of you that secretly wants to be a glam rock god will rejoice at this album. Given the evolution of their sound (from wide-eyed rock newbies with driving guitar and some synth pop to a sound that's flipped on its head- more synth pop and less driving guitar), its as though they had merely been flirting with the glitz and glam side and now they are in a fulfilling, long term relationship.
This is not to say their new album, Battle Born (out today) is full of kitsch (there is some) or giant rock anthems begging to be played in a stadium (there are lots), but merely to say anyone who ever had the illusion that The Killers were a pure rock-centric band might want to look the other way, because Battle Born is pure Vegas.
As a band from Vegas, who also recorded most of the album in Vegas, its almost refreshing to see the band embracing their sequined city's influence. It has been there the whole time, lurking behind the dark corners of tracks like "Andy, You're A Star" off Hot Fuss, and "Read My Mind" off Sam's Town. Battle Born is an album with BIG sounds. As big and as bright as the Las Vegas strip. Big synth, big vocals, big soaring backing music and ooohs and aahhs. Big lyrics. Even the ballads are big. And the best part? The big anthem-esque tracks (which, by the way, are going to sound amazing live when they play them on tour).
Some of those tracks have a Meatloaf feel. There are also wistful ballads with soaring music and lyrics like we haven't ever quite heard from these guys ("Here With Me", "Heart of A Girl"). There is more than one song that brought to mind The Who (listen for big Baba O'Reilly like riffs on "Battle Born" and "A Matter of Time"). I hear Ric Ocasek in Flowers' voice on "The Rising Tide". And then "Miss Atomic Bomb" comes in, a mighty song with a hint of a riff at the end that sounds eerily similar to "Mr. Brightside", as if to pass the torch from the band they were to the band they are now- pure Vegas pop rock.
There are giant wins for me on Battle Born- "Runaways", "Flesh and Bone", "The Way It Was", "The Rising Tide", and "The Heart of A Girl", which is a surprisingly fantastic slower groove. But there are also not-so-brightside spots like "From Here On Out" on which, music gods forgive me, but I swear I hear Juice Newton's spunky "Queen of Hearts"; or "Be Still", a ballad that just misses the mark for me.
In other words....its a lot of things at once. Just like the town of Vegas. The only way I know how to reconcile all of it is to embrace my inner glam cowboy and ride off into the Vegas sunset with a guitar, a sequined jacket, and a synthesizer. Just like the Vegas strip, you can't tell what's real and what's illusion. But sometimes, its just what you need. Giddy up.
Check it out for yourself and let me know what YOU think.