The Killers are such a curious case. After seeing their pop stardom all but sealed with their incredible debut album Hot Fuss, and their high-brow artistic inclinations celebrated and applauded on their second album Sam’s Town, the band were seemingly untouchable. Two albums into their career, they had shown that they could switch between glossy pop music, earthy Americana, glistening synthpop and chunky indie rock with ease – often within the same song.
By the time their electronic-tinged third album Day & Age came along in 2008, they had shown so many different sides that their diversity became their recognisable trait, and they just began to sound like… themselves. Drill into their sound and you’ll find the ground is made up of Bruce Springsteen, Duran Duran, The Smiths, Pet Shop Boys and U2 – and if you go back to Hot Fuss with that in mind, you’ll find that it’s always been that way.
The albums released since, Battle Born and Wonderful Wonderful (not forgetting the 2007 off-cuts compilation Sawdust, which actually features many of their finest moments), just confirm what British fans were first to notice: The Killers are world-class commercial pop songsmiths, and any album they put out is An Event. So the success they’ve found in recent years, especially as founding guitarist Adam Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer have been largely absent from proceedings, is even more astounding. The core duo of Brandon Flowers and Ronnie Vannucci Jr have had to bring in other songwriters, guest artists and trendy producers to ensure that their creative vision remains undiminished – but undiminished it remains.
Imploding The Mirage was recorded in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Utah, and was produced Shawn Everett (who has worked with Kim Gordon, Beck, Vampire Weekend and most tellingly The War On Drugs), and Jonathan Rado of Foxygen – both of whom contribute their singular artistic vision, and manage to blend it with each other’s. There are contributions from Fleetwood Mac‘s Lindsey Buckingham, kd lang, Weyes Blood, and Adam Granduciel from The War On Drugs. Most tellingly, Alex Cameron – the guy behind five tracks on Wonderful Wonderful – returns here, to add another four songs.
The album starts in bombastic fashion, with My Own Soul’s Warning coming off like a genetically-spliced hybrid of Springsteen’s Born In The USA and U2’s Achtung Baby. Blowback, which follows, pares things back, taking us into Tom Petty-esque Americana, only with added sequencers – and a guest spot for Adam Granduciel. The Willy Wonka side of The Killers comes out on Dying Breed: influenced by Rado, no doubt, the band opt to sample Can and NEU!, before blasting into their most powerful chorus in years. That same anthemic power is there in lead single Caution, which contains an absolutely electrifying solo from Buckingham, and the only co-write credit for Mark Stoermer.
Lightning Fields is enormous, spacious, comforting and nostalgic all at once. Fire In Bone borrows from Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and other purveyors of plastic white-boy funk – a doff of the cap or an open challenge to The 1975, perhaps? Running Towards A Place is polished until it gleams, with that signature heartland rock revival thing going on – you’ll hear it straight away. The three tracks that close the record are all very, very good – from the straightforward, thunderous My God, to the anthemic When The Dreams Run Dry, and finally the marvellous title track.
It’s strange to run out of complimentary adjectives when describing an album, but in reality this is the most professional, mature, clean-sounding hit of saccharine pop the band have ever delivered, and it’s certainly their best album since Day & Age. It won’t make any new converts, or win many new fans, but when they’ve already got stadiums booked for their tour in 2021, it doesn’t really matter.