Review Summary: A sluggish, boring album with little in the way of memorable songs and a lot in the echo department.
Internet, I have a confession to make. I adore The Killers. They were one of the bands that got me into listening to music; their brand of emotive vocals, catchy melodies, and general over-the-top style is right up my alley. I loved the raw energy of Hot Fuss, the rock anthems of Sam's Town, and even the ridiculousness of Day and Age. They've always been fun, energetic, and uplifting, and the songwriting has been top notch. It's been four long years since their last release, and with a title like "Battle Born", one would expect nothing less than a bombastic return. So why does it feel like I'm asleep on the battlefield?
I'm just going to get this out there right off the bat - this album is boring. And not in that "oh, the songs wander off and spend too much time doing x before going back to y" kind of way - whole sections of this album are akin to watching C-SPAN with all of the politicians replaced with Ben Stein. It doesn't always suffocate you with its boringness: there's a semi-hook here, a nifty synth line there, but they feel like the occasional cactus in the Nevada desert the band seems to love so much.
Brandon Flowers hasn't always been a consistent lyricist, but his efforts have always been befitting of the song and well-written enough to sing along to without feeling like a complete tool. Here, they sometimes border on laughable ("don't want your picture/on my cellphone/I want you here with me"), and at best have cadences that hardly fit the music. It often seems like Flowers has too much to say and not enough song to say it in, and what's more, none of what he has to say is very interesting. Flowers' vocals also take a slight hit; while his delivery is still solid enough, and his trademark sound is still there (just about the only thing that keeps this sounding like a Killers album), he rarely sounds like he's putting any emotion into what he's singing, keeping his voice subdued to match the quiet, mid-tempo feel of the entire album. The rest of the band fails to pick up the slack, and we're left with a uninterested vocalist singing over what amounts to nothing.
Some songs don't completely sound like audible NyQuil. "Runaways", the album's lead single, sounds like a Sam's Town B-side, and is legitimately catchy; and the namesake closer is somewhat enjoyable as well, being that it doesn't trudge along like a crippled mound of molasses. But neither is anywhere near the quality of their previous output. This album sounds like The Killers vacuumed the fun out of their sound completely. Energy was what kept The Killers alive and interesting; without the fun aspect of their music, they have become just another generic overly-echofied "indie" rock group. And nobody on the face of the Earth wants to suffer through an album full of that. I'll admit that I only gave this a couple spins before writing, but if you're like me (and chances are that if you're here at Sputnik, you are), there are about ten other albums out there calling your name, promising a far better time than your favorite band of old can offer you now. Sorry, The Killers, but it's over. And I don't want to be friends.
Bottom Line: Listen to "Runaways", burn the rest.