Review Summary: A mostly redundant album with occasional flashes of brilliance.
The Killers are an interesting band. Where their peers in the post-punk revival scene of the early 2000's like Interpol or Franz Ferdinand have ventured further down the different sounds and styles of post-punk the Killers were more interested in bringing back arena rock and a bit of Americana in their own day-glo, synth-driven way. Since their debut album they've traveled further and further down the road of arena rock until we arrive at their latest album, Battle Born, which for all intents and purposes is Brandon Flowers and company's least consistent and often times most frustrating album. On the record they attempt to sound like a bastard amalgamation of U2, Bruce Springsteen, and New Order but wind up mostly sounding subdued, uninspired, and flat-out boring.
Now, there is some good here. It isn't all saccharine and formulaic. Opener "Flesh and Bone" brings tension back to the Killers music and it's a much-missed aspect of their songwriting they seem to neglect on the rest of the album. In typical Killers fashion the lead single off the album, "Runaways", is also a winner, a soaring synth-driven epic romance song very much in the vein of "When We Were Young" if not quite as immediately endearing. Here's where things start to go downhill however. "The Way it Was" is almost indistinguishable from the rest of the album and while the following two tracks do provide a shot in the arm a bit with more bubblegum synths, by the time you hit the third quarter of the album you're wondering where all of the emotion in Flowers vocals and lyrical delivery has gone and why every guitar part seems to mimic The Edge while Flowers wails away sounding less and less interested as time goes on. Even worse is when the band attempts to deliver a ballad, as they do in weepy and embarrassing fashion on "Heart of a Girl" and "Be Still", which may very will be the worst songs of the band's career.
Things get a bit better with "From Here on Out" which although a bit overproduced is one of the only truly unique songs on the album where the band seems to just cut loose and have fun, throwing in bits of country and pop. The title track is another attempt at a trademark fist-pumping call to arms like "All These Things That I've Done", and though again it stumbles at points it shows the promise and talent that this band has always possessed in bits and pieces. Unfortunately most of the album sounds like the band resting on the laurels of their established synthpop-meets-Springsteen
formula and coming up with some of their least inspired work yet. There are enough moments here to make it interesting and worthwhile to hardcore fans of the group, but as a whole this is undoubtedly the group's weakest effort yet.