by Jonathan Bergenson

Rating: ****

Mr. Brightside has returned!

After a small detour into Christmas music with the release of their (RED) Christmas EP in 2011, The Killers have returned with the follow-up to 2008’s Day & AgeBattle Born is, at its heart, pure Americana.  Evoking the same kind of top-down, aviators, and leather jacket feel as a classic Bruce Springsteen album, The Killers’ latest effort will resonate with many a young adult.

“Flesh & Bone,” the first track on the album, sets the pace beautifully.  “I’ve gone through life white-knuckled / In the moments that left me behind / Refusing to heed the yield,” front-man Brandon Flowers croons, proclaiming that the scariest moments of his life were the ones he let pass him by.  Passionately and convincingly, Flowers proceeds to sing about loves lost and opportunities that have slipped through his fingers.

What stands out is not necessarily the message in the lyrics, but the tone of the music.  In an ironic change of pace, the most upbeat songs prove to be the ones with the most melancholy messages, and the most pleasant images often accompany a softer tune.

In “Heart of a Girl,” Flowers recalls the fleeting, fluttery feeling that accompanies a first love, but with slow guitar riffs that evoke the image of teardrops and a longing for days past.

On the flip side, “The Way It Was,” finds Flowers wondering if it is even possible to rekindle the lost flame in a relationship, all to the steady, upbeat rhythm of drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr.  The latter song will undoubtedly become a late-night driving anthem for young, taken men.

As if there was any doubt to the message of the album, the title song, “Battle Born,” is easily the most evocative of Springsteen, echoing the iconic riffs of “Born in the U.S.A.”  The Killers have made the song their own, though, with lyrics reflecting the millennial generation, the same way Springsteen sang the songs of the Vietnam veteran.

The Killers have learned from their last effort, Day & Age, and better incorporate dance elements into this album.  The former just felt unlike their classic albums, and veered too far into radio-pop territory.  Synth piano effects are still present in many of Battle Born‘s songs, but are implemented much more subtly, and the album is, by and large, a return to The Killers’ roots.  Some listeners might not like the change, however, as the lack of risk on this album just makes it feel safe.

Despite their safety, not a single song is out of place, and The Killers put out, arguably, their most cohesive and consistent album yet.  On the merits of its relevancy and its consistency, it is impossible not to recommend Battle Born.  The Killers have done nothing to redefine the genre, but have definitely put their stamp upon it.