Will the Killers be the last stadium-rock band America ever creates? We’re great at pop, we invented hip-hop and we’ve even caught up at dubstep. But Coldplay is English, Arcade Fire is Canadian, and “Battle Born” feels like a reveille for the U.S. of A’s last contender in the field of major guitar bands.
The Killers have always alternated between Europhile and Americana fetishes. Their debut, “Hot Fuss,” got on the dance-punk revival a bit late but did it better than almost any peer; “Sam’s Town” wore its rolled-sleeve Springsteen-isms proudly, and 2008’s “Day & Age” turned to the art-pomp of Bowie and Roxy Music. “Battle Born” finally synthesizes all of this into one coherent vision.
Lead single “Runaways” borrows from “Born to Run”-era Bruce, but filled out with synth washes to make it even bigger (and Flowers’ well-documented family-man life gives weight to a song about raising kids despite the pull of the road). Domesticity is revisited on “Here With Me” and the gentle devotion-statement “Be Still,” putting the Killers in an unusual but promising position — a glammed up new wave band with the heart of a pure country songwriter.
The band’s members can still kick out pure jams like “The Rising Tide,” and Flowers is finally letting his voice’s personality carry the emotional weight of a song. “Battle Born” isn’t the finest album in the Killers’ catalog, and it’s not immune to classic rock placeholders (we’ve had enough blond-haired girls as archetypes for hope, thanks). But it’s the band’s most fully realized record, and that should keep them at the front of a dwindling pack.