Photo Credit: Robert Ascroft
Beginning with their 2004 debut album Hot Fuss and the classic singles “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside”, the Killers became among the few actual rock bands who were launched in the twenty-first century to establish a major presence in popular culture and then more-or-less maintain it. The ‘80s influence was instantly apparent in their work, but refreshingly the Killers never appeared as though the idea was to recreate the past, but rather to remold the sound for the new millennium. Splitting the difference between New Romantic-inspired pizazz and the sensitive-yet-defiant demeanor of Americana rock continues to serve the Killers well on their sixth full-length album Imploding the Mirage.
More concisely, if you wanted to describe the band to a friend who wasn’t familiar with them and you wanted to give them the short version, you could simply say that the Killers sound like a cross between Duran Duran and Bruce Springsteen. However, on Imploding the Mirage they bridge that gap somewhat with some distinctly twenty-first century synth a la the War on Drugs and other more recent artists. This is apparent right from the opening cut, “My Own Soul.” “Blowback” opens with the tip-tapping synth sound, which was popular circa 1984 on songs like Queen’s classic “Radio Gaga.” However, it doesn’t take long on the track for the Springsteen (or possibly Tom Petty) influence to rush to the front of the stage.
Other noticeable influences are abound throughout Imploding the Mirage, and the Killers almost always put them to good use. This includes the bouncy “Fire and Bone”, and its resemblance to Roxy Music, and “Dying Breed”, which sounds a lot like the Moody Blues’ “Ride My Seesaw” being covered by Kraftwerk. The Killers have never been much in the way of stunt-casting guest stars on their records, and whether that’s an official policy or not, it’s seemingly now been abandoned.
Legendary ex-Fleetwood Mac member unceremoniously provides a guitar part on the song “Caution.” However, for the two tracks that feature female vocalists, the Killers decided against trendiness, forgoing the Halseys and Lana Del Reys of the world and instead recruiting one respected veteran and an up-and-comer. Respectively, it’s K.D. Lang who sings on “Lightening Fields”, and promising newcomer Weyes Blood on “My God.”
The song “Running Towards a Place” (“Are we running towards a place// Where we’ll stand as one”) clearly looks to be the Killers’ late entry into a long line of would-be generational anthems which use running as a metaphor for an unwillingness to be passive (i.e. Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”, Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” and obviously Springsteen’s “Born to Run”), but lead singer Brandon Flowers and the rest of the band definitely give the track legs. Still, while the Killers’ influences have usually been somewhat ambiguous, the album closer, which just happens to be the title track, is an obvious tribute to the Cars and particularly group leader Ric Ocasek, who died late last year at age seventy-five. The lyrics even include the words “dangerous type,” a clear reference to the Cars’ 1979 song of that title. Here, Flowers sings on “Imploding the Mirage” very much in Ocasek’s trademark style, replete with a talk-sing style and a vocal hiccup.
The album should definitely make a killing with the Killers’ legions of fans. Actually, it may have already: Imploding the Mirage has become the band’s sixth consecutive Top 10 album in the US (in the UK every one of their albums – including now this one – has gone to number one). So the apparent commercial success suggests that at the very least, the Killers won’t be imploding any time soon.