…and I’m not even going to buy it.  Shortly after listening to Battle Born, my reaction was to bluntly declare that the album sucked.  A few days later, I would like to temper that statement by admitting that this isn’t actually a straight-up bad album.  However, I’m definitely not into the direction the Killers have taken with these songs, and I would argue that these songs completely lack the certain something that made me a fan of their earlier work over the past eight (!) years.

The buzz for this album was that it was more like Sam’s Town than like Hot Fuss or Day & Age.  As someone who genuinely, nonironically loves Sam’s Town, this news had me eagerly anticipating Battle Born.  Music critics everywhere panned Sam’s Town, the Killers’ second album, condemning it as a collection of Brandon Flowers’ corny attempts to be Bruce Springsteen or Bono.  But I love the songs on that album, and I think it really rocks; yeah, the lyrics are goofy a lot of the time, but I take that in stride — in fact, I smile at them — and just appreciate the songs for being fun to listen to.

Well, Battle Born was released last Tuesday, and most of the reviews were pretty positive.  There weren’t really any critics who thought the album was a flop, although a few thought it was just middling.  It’s unreasonable to expect a warm critical reception for a new Killers album, so I finished reading and then queued up the album on my computer for a pre-purchase listen.  As I listened to the album, I was (a) disappointed in what I was hearing, and (b) surprised that my problems with the album weren’t really touched upon in the professional reviews I’d read.  So I resolved to write this post, making note of why I disliked Battle Born.  This is not an album review.  I’m not going through this song by song; I’m just writing about my general impression.

This new album is underwhelming.  The energy and power of the Killers’ previous albums are absent from the proceedings.  When I say “power,” I’m not talking about profound lyrics.  I’m talking about the kind of power that makes you rock out to an album in the car, turning the volume up and letting the music blast you out of your seat as you sing along.  The best songs on Hot Fuss have that energy.  Almost all of Sam’s Town has that power.  A decent amount of Day & Age grabs you that way too.  But Battle Born doesn’t possess that quality.  It’s the Killers’ least dancey album by far.  It’s bland.  It’s often boring.  There are straight-faced ballads.  It’s sort of like the Killers aping Meat Loaf, but performing in a way that’s sapped of all of Meat Loaf’s songs’ energy.

In fact, that’s the best way I can describe this album’s sound.  This is the Killers’ most ’80s album — and that’s saying something, considering this is a band whose entire career is premised on sort of being ’80s synth-rock revivalists.  But where their previous albums were heavily influenced by different sorts of ’80s music, they were still clearly very much part of the musical trends of the 2000s.  Battle Born doesn’t fit in the year 2012.  It belongs entirely to the U2 and Meat Loaf schools of mid-’80s pop-rock, and in my opinion, that’s not a good thing.  (The synthesizers are still prominent here, but they’re not used in the same way they used to be.)  Moreover, “pop-rock” is something of a misnomer here, since “pop” implies catchy melodies and hooks, and those are things of which this album is very nearly devoid.  And so this set of songs utterly fails to excite me, and never builds to anything anyway.

It occurs to me that Battle Born is the album that Brandon Flowers was trying to make in 2006 when he misfired and gave us Sam’s Town.  If that’s the case, then boy am I glad that he misfired six years ago!

P.S.  In posting the above video, I am taking the unusual and indeed unprecedented action of posting a song I dislike on this blog.  I’m doing so in this case only because I think this particular song is pretty representative of the album’s sound.

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