Freddie Matthews writes from London: Hopefully when you think of your favourite song by The Killers it would be their 2004 seminal classic, Mr. Brightside. That one song was voted ‘Song of The Decade’ on UK radio as well in the noughties. The intro to the song was also voted as one of the ‘Greatest Guitar Riffs of All Time’. Regardless of your opinion of the band and its overtly cool singer, Brandon Flowers, The Killers have sold over 16 million albums worldwide. This is pretty impressive by anyone’s standards but they’re still searching for that one elusive album to elevate them to new heights.
Battle Born is the new album by The Killers but is it the monumental piece of work we’ve all been anticipating? I certainly thought so at first. Having been a fan of the band for many years and in particular of the first album, Hot Fuss, which included their best selling single Mr. Brightside. But as with many bands and artists it would seem that the bigger they get, the more predictable their sound becomes. I suppose for many successful bands the key consideration when recording any new material has to be: why change a winning formula when it sells as well as it already does?
Battle Born’s release follows an 18 month break for The Killers. They must have been desperate for some time to spend their cash after the best part of six years solid on the road. In that 18 months, not content with lying on a beach, driving Ferraris and investing in huge properties, front man Brandon Flowers recorded and released his rather unexciting debut solo album called Flamingo in September of 2012. Flamingo somehow reached No.1 in the UK album chart. I think that position was more of a reflection of his band’s popularity rather than that of Brandon’s music itself. Flamingo was average, in fact less than that, apart from three of the tracks which were released as singles. The album sold around 250,000 copies. Battle Born sold more in its first week of sales in the UK and US alone.
You wouldn’t think so but The Killers are a band whose sales success has dwindled from album to album since the release of the first album, Hot Fuss, in June 2004. They’ve never been a singles band and by that I mean that they sell many more albums than singles, nor do they achieve high chart positions on those singles; but they do get tons of radio and TV play. However, four albums later, Hot Fuss, Sam’s Town, Day & Age and now Battle Born have all achieved UK No. 1 album status as well as US Top 10. Both these markets require an impressive performance for such a feat.
On first impressions Battle Born is a mighty fine new album but five listens in and it’s already starting to grate and annoy me. Initially I felt as if this musical piece of work, recorded in Las Vegas, was anthemic and long lasting: an album to keep The Killers on the road and on tour for the next two years, if not longer, and one that we could expect a number of radio and TV singles from. But after just five full listens it all sounds all too similar and familiar. There’s nothing new here. It’s just the ‘same old same old’: the drum fills are the same; the guitar riffs the same; the song structure is the same and the production values and techniques are (you’ve guessed it) also the same. There’s nothing new here and certainly nothing to get my musical juices flowing. There are just two decent songs from the album for me and they are: Miss Atomic Bomb (a title very U2 in nature) and the title track to the album Battle Born. Naturally, this new album – almost four years in the making – will sell and sell well but that’s surely a forecast based upon the band’s already established popularity.
There should be no excuses here as the band have used some of the world’s most renowned producers to grace the music industry in the last 30 years, with Stuart Price (New Order, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Take That, Scissor Sisters), Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson) and Steve Lillywhite (The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, 30 Seconds To Mars, The Counting Crows). So there can be no doubt that Island Records expect this album to break all The Killers’ previous records.
The burning question is this: Will Battle Born be The Killers’ most successful album to date? I would be very surprised if that were the case but in saying that, 300,000 sales, in week 1 alone is still pretty impressive.