Monday, 24 September 2012

Review: The Killers - Battle Born

 Now... now... now, how can I possibly describe where the past week of my life has taken me? Well, I'll use two basic words that sums things up without any great difficulty: Freshers Week. That's right readers, I'm moving on with life and I've started my four years at Robert Gordon's University and the only way to kick things off is with the purely alcohol fueled juggernaut of events that they call Freshers Week. Basically, you go to any of Aberdeen's finest nightclubs while drunk to get more drunk. Now I'm not exactly the Straight Edge type that Minor Threat wanted to inspire, so I took a lot of joy and experienced a lot of restlessness from this drinking activity. I could go on to talk about the kind of things that went down and the reasonably intelligent ways that I managed to cheat the whole underage thing I've suffered so much, but it would be of no interest.

 What's more on the minds of anyone that may read this blog regularly (That's right, no one.) is the overall views on rock music in the context of a nightclub, such as the second floor of The Institute Nightclub. Basically, Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus is played frequently enough for it to become a Freshers Week anthem, so, not exactly deep. More relevantly however, the frequent rate of which songs by The Killers are played, from 2004's official modern rock icon Mr. Brightside to 2008's synthpop sensation Human, has been more than enough evidence that the Las Vegas quartet are officially a crucial pinpoint in the evolution that rock bands with pop friendly melodies have take, becoming the natural successor to the stadium filling likes of likes of Journey, Styks, REO Speedwagon and Foreigner, while also bringing the darkened edge and intelligent use if synthesizers that only years of listening to New Order could shape up. It's little wonder they've managed to one of the few bands that takes in the respect of both casual pop music listeners and in depth rock fans the world over with the genuinely talented and challenging lyrics of Brandon Flowers that no one could possibly recreate and the entire power and eclecticism that the band put into each album from the guitar heavy spectacle of Sam's Town to the 80's infused Day and Age and of course, the new standard of modern mainstream rock that Hot Fuss filled itself with. All have tunes that anyone could dance to without without any threat of respectability going down the drain (If I learnt anything from Freshers) while having headbang-able rock and roll credentials.

 Of course the extent of the band's talent and wide sense of relevancy in modern musical culture has recently been reflected in the recording that their highly anticipated comeback album Battle Born is the third highest selling album of 2012 and well, I suppose it's nice to see something good have such chart popularity every now and then. With an overall sense of maturity to be found in all corners of the band's performance, the album is undeniably untouchable, although doesn't exactly come with the ability to reach above the reputation of being a solid album.

 As opener Flesh and Bone transpires into a a flowing display of neo-gothic synthpop with the empathetic vocals of Flowers and the digging basslines of Mark Stoermer are accompanied by icy synthesizer backdrops, it's a decent reflection upon the musical style The Killers have given us over the years and where it is now. Darkened pop music that isn't afraid to be bold, even at this stage where it has undeniably become a mellower proposition. And with a perfectly danceable chorus, there's no loss in the band's flare for constructing a great pop song.

 And this entire spectrum of making great pop songs is become a more prominent feature in Battle Born's songwriting. Lead single Runaways and personal highlight From Here On Out are packed with some of the most uplifting melodies heard in while as Runaways carries of the perfect sound of Americana put into a 1980's pop context, while From Here On Out is a genuine rush of good times that fly out in a rapid two and a half minutes with a flurried guitar solo from Dave Keuning that proves that even the world's most polished rock band can get down and play things raw.

 But this is very much a polished album. If Day & Age seemed like too much of a foray into synthesized pop music for your taste, this album will hardly impress you. Tracks like The Way it Was and Deadlines and Commitments owe so much to 1980's synth-heavy artists a la Brian Eno and latter day Talking Heads that it almost questions why the band even have a guitarist in the same way the Coldplay did with every waking moment of Mylo Xyloto. If you can connect with the high use of electronics, then the amount of absorbing of one's total mind that the spacious backdrops of A Matter of Time will serve as nothing but a complete treat.

 Beyond that, the band do nothing else but use their songwriting for complete beauty. From the tender, Dire Straits-esque balladry of Heart of a Girl to the morose performance of Flowers on Be Still, a song tat truly makes you stop all your actions and makes hairs stand on the back of one's neck to the mighty title track on which the band close, arguably one of the finest songs The Killers have ever written, the band use their skills to do nothing short of inspiring anyone that listens.

 There's so much praise I could find in looking at this Battle Born. The Killers do prove themselves to be very much an indestructible unit within their performances and songwriting, but in reality, this is a fairly mellow set of pleasant alternative rock songs, with great lyrics and great ideas, but paling in comparison to the kind of strength of personality that the band has previously displayed on Hot Fuss and Sam's Town. It's unlikely that the band will ever be able to match the ferocity and meaning of those albums, it's unlikely that they'll be able to pen another song that gets a mass group of drunken students jumping up and down at a nightclub during Freshers Week and there isn't even any way of telling if they'll stick around for long after the release of this album and touring, or take another hiatus to record more solo albums and other such things, but with Battle Born what you're witnessing is a band taking a wistful and graceful step into maturity with all good ideas that set them up in the big league of stadium rock bands in the first place very much intact. And if that's the kind of thing that's going to break me into days of music blogging in university then I don't have any kind of protest against that.

The Killers' Battle Born is out now via Island. The band will tour the UK from October-November with Tegan & Sara.

No comments:

Post a Comment