The Good Review
Two years, four months, 26 days, and two solo albums since announcing a hiatus, the Killers are back with a bombastic new single, “Runaways,” which offers their usual anthem-sized sound as well as glimmers of promise for new developments on their brand-new album, Battle Born released September 18.
“Runaways” opens like a rising sun. Subtle keyboard layers rise into the mix providing a placid surface for lead singer Brandon Flowers’s clean and powerful vocals. It’s clear Flowers has been doing some training and refining. Gone is the nervous warble that has won him the hearts of many a teenage girl worldwide. Though his vocals soar with newfound confidence, Flower’s streamlined pipes suffer from a lack of the sensitive character and vocal color that has come to define the Killers on their previous releases.
Lyrically, Flowers assumes the familiar role of Americana storyteller, never ashamed to wear generous amounts of Bruce Springsteen influence on his sleeve. In this sense, “Runaways” has a grittier, middle American edge, feeling much more like a continuation of the band’s 2006 release “Sam’s Town” and less like 2008’s sleeker release “Day & Age,” known to most by its infectious synth-driven single “Human.” “Runaways” is a desert landscape of “teenage rush,” wild nights, and split-second engagements.
As a whole, the lyrics lean toward the cliché side of things, lacking a certain personal quirkiness that fueled Killers classics such as “Somebody Told Me” and “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”.
But before you can even begin to sneer at the light corniness of Flower’s lyrics, the one-two punch of drummer Ronnie Vanucci Jr.’s thundering beats and guitarist Dave Keunig’s wall of guitars combines to make a powerful kick-in that sends the listener rocketing straight into the Killer’s palm, right where they want you. Though at times the layer upon layer production style can bog you down in a desert sandstorm of weaving guitars and synth, the thick production is rich with little gems of harmony and instrumentation that will glimmer to the surface upon repeat listens.
All music nerd talk aside, “Runaways” may not be the greatest Killers single you’ve ever heard, but it makes a clear statement, that the Killers are back and are bringing the big guns. Though the story may feel a bit tired and familiar, the song paints a detailed scene with colorful characters and vast landscapes against a backdrop of massive production. If “Runaways” is any indication as to the character of Battle Born, one can expect, at the very best, an expansive and hook-ridden set of anthems. If worst comes to worst, Battle Born may get bogged down in production with signature, concise, pop-savvy songs appearing few and far between. Either way, listeners are in for a detailed and well-crafted album that will demand more respect and enjoy more longevity than peers such as Coldplay’s airy Top 40 grab, Mylo Xyloto –because I know you can’t wait to hear “Para, Para, Paradise” again!