Review Summary: A sweeping and somewhat unexpected triumph for the pop-rock titans of yesteryear.
It’s no secret that The Killers fell off a veritable cliff following 2006’s Sam’s Town
. In fact, for the last twelve years, one would be hard-pressed to recall anything particularly noteworthy that the band accomplished; three albums of sporadically catchy (but ultimately disposable) singles padded by overinflated ballads is hardly what fans had in mind back when Hot Fuss
launched the band to stardom. At best, they’ve fallen into a prolonged identity crisis – at worst, they’ve ridden their own coattails for well over a decade. Thankfully, Imploding the Mirage
sees The Killers finally snap out of their crippling musician’s block. By honing in on the record’s atmosphere, the band has pulled off a remarkable comeback and crafted their best album since Sam’s Town
Imploding the Mirage
was inspired by its artwork, a painting titled Dance of the Wind and Storm
by Thomas Blackshear. Brandon Flowers stated that whenever he would try to decide if a song belonged on the new album or not, he would listen to it against the visual backdrop of Blackshear’s piece. If it didn’t feel right, it didn’t make the cut. This might seem like an arbitrary method for determining a record’s tracklist, but in The Killers’ case, it really helped to eliminate the inconsistencies that have plagued their recent works. The resultant sound is what Flowers describes as “celestial rock & roll.” The vivacious frontman has been known for making some fairly unwieldy claims in his time, but this is one that we can all get behind because Imploding the Mirage
sounds the part.
The Killers’ sixth studio album contains fractional glimpses of the band’s past, but for the most part it sounds unlike anything else that they’ve ever concocted. Imploding the Mirage
spirals and swirls, glistens and gleams, and genuinely seems otherworldly. Brandon Flowers’ choruses soar above the clouds, the guitars buzz with the effervescence of the sun, the pianos ring out with the elegance of an abandoned cathedral dance hall, and the drums gallop like wild horses kicking up dust on the American Midwest plains. It’s all very pristine and aesthetically pleasing; it’s as grandiose as Brandon Flowers could ever aspire, but not too sweet for the listener to stomach. That’s a tough target to hit, but this record does so by blending cosmic synths/production with the sort of boots-on-the-ground Americana that made ‘When You Were Young’ anthemic only a short era ago.
Imploding the Mirage
’s greatest strength is the way in which it consistently delivers upon this atmosphere. In the past, The Killers always seemed to be searching for a hit single; here the criteria for inclusion forced them to focus on building the concept instead. The record obviously has singles, but there’s no drop-off in quality between those and the rest of the album. Someone who isn’t privy to The Killers’ output would not be able to delineate between ‘Caution’ (the album’s lead single) and k.d. lang’s powerful guest vocal feature on ‘Lightning Fields’. That’s just the way Imploding the Mirage
unravels; smooth and uniformly beautiful. The only other guest feature on the record comes via Weyes Blood on the mercurial ‘My God’, another non-single highlight which helps to prove the notion that Imploding the Mirage
is a complete album experience.
Elsewhere, The Killers still suffer from their built-in shortcomings. The lyrical content ranges from clunky (“I felt fire in bone, I felt no good, I felt lowdown, and I felt alone”) to borderline nonsensical (“While you were out there, chewing on fat for probable cause”), but Flowers still manages to be serviceable with his penning more often than not. The melodies, for as euphoric and iridescent as their surrounding atmospheres manage to be, aren’t the always the most gripping. Stripped of the record’s pomp and frills, little of this is as catchy or memorable as those mid-2000s Killers, although that’s admittedly a tall order. Imploding the Mirage
boils down to a shallow dip in the pool, but that pool is glistening and feels oh so good to indulge in.
It’s a bit of an odd feeling to be sincerely excited about The Killers in 2020. Their prestigious status within the arena of pop/rock was cemented a long time ago, but in today’s rapidly evolving musical climate, they’ve become mere afterthoughts. If there was one more argument to be made in their favor before they are quietly ushered into “classic rock for old people” status, it’s Imploding the Mirage
. It may not be a perfect album, but this thing breathes life and ramps up the energy/optimism in all the right places. The Killers’ sixth studio album embodies the band’s liberated spirit and boundless appetite for the grandiose, all while beginning to make up for over a decade of below average material. Imploding the Mirage
will finally have you smiling about The Killers again – and yes, this time, like you mean it