Over the course of The Killers’ career, their best songs have functioned as the musical counterparts to competitive bodybuilders: Preening and shallow, yet vaguely threatening; objectively ridiculous, yet undeniably impressive. The Las Vegas quartet’s charm was built on guts and glory, but with Battle Born, their much-anticipated return from a lengthy hiatus, they’ve carelessly discarded their famously outsized egos in favour of feeble yearning, resulting in a sluggish sapfest of Springsteen-mimicking love songs.
Apart from chrome-plated lead single “Runaways” and the flourish-heavy title track, Battle Born’s mid-tempo melodrama does no favours for Brandon Flowers’s thin lyric sheet (small towns, county lines, broken dreams, etc.). Unlike in the past, his choruses here simply aren’t strong enough to make up for these facepalm platitudes, which pop up on Battle Born at a far higher rate than ever before. At its worst, Battle Born’s insipid romance approaches the absurd, maxing out the cheese factor on “Here With Me” (co-written with Fran Healy, of soppy Scottish band Travis), easily the lowest moment of the band’s career.
When they emerged, The Killers found fame by reviving a faction of ’80s music that held in contempt the easy-rocking balladeer. Strange how easy it is to become all that you hate.
Playlist picks: “Runaways,” “Battle Born”
The Killers play the Sound Academy (11 Polson) on Sept. 22.