It would come as no surprise to learn The Killers have found the sacred fountain of youth: ‘Imploding the Mirage’ cements their legacy as one of the greatest rock bands of a generation. It is visceral and feverish, hopeful and relentless – a passionate, boundless embrace of the tenacity and sheer power of the human spirit.
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Stream: “My Own Soul’s Warning” – The Killers
It would come as no surprise to learn The Killers have found the sacred fountain of youth: America’s great rock band sound as hungry and sure of themselves today, as they did when we first met them some sixteen years ago. The group have aged gracefully with every successive album without losing a single step, proving time and again their singular status at the bridge of alternative, new wave, heartland rock, and post-punk revival.
If 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful – The Killers’ fifth record and their first offering in as many years – heralded a sort of “musical homecoming,” then their sixth album is the full stop: A show of force so majestic and unapologetic, authentic and unencumbered by the need to prove anything, that it feels like its own noteworthy milestone. Imploding the Mirage (August 21, 2020 via Island Records) cements, in real time, The Killers’ legacy as one of the greatest rock bands of a generation. It is visceral and feverish, hopeful and relentless – a passionate, boundless embrace of the tenacity and sheer power of the human spirit.
can you cast out a demon?
can you wrangle the wind?
will you stay when she’s breathing
the blowback again?
– “Blowback,” The Killers
Imploding the Mirage houses a number of new “firsts” for the band: It’s their first recording and release since relocating from their hometown of Las Vegas (Flowers to Utah); it’s their first full-length without any input from founding member and lead guitarist Dave Keuning; and (consequentially) it’s their first album to feature a suite of guest appearances from musicians across the spectrum of sound – from Lindsey Buckingham to kd lang, Weyes Blood to Adam Granduciel of War On Drugs, Blake Mills to Lucius, and beyond.
Yet what’s immediately apparent about Imploding the Mirage isn’t a slew of change at all; rather, it’s how natural and at home Flowers, Mark Stoermer, Ronnie Vannucci Jr. sound in these songs. It’s the pure thrill of rock music done right – underpinned by a thirst or excitement to magnify and intensify inner emotions unleashed to the outer world.
The Killers have added to their pantheon of stadium-sized songs a hearty slew of uplifting outpourings ready for individual cherishing and communal celebration.
The ascendant rise and massive melodies in opener “My Own Soul’s Warning” set the tone of the album as the band jettison off, buoyed by Brandon Flowers’ poetic spiritual quest above and a slew of rollicking guitars, surging drums, and mesmerizing keys below. “What kind of words would cut through the clutter of the whirlwind of these days?” Flowers muses at the first verse’s end, deftly jumping with the band into a high-octane bridge and chorus:
I tried going against my own soul’s warning
And in the end, something just didn’t feel right
Oh, I tried diving, even though the sky was storming
Thunder heads were forming
But then I thought I could fly
And when I hit the ground
It made a messed up sound
And it kept on rattling through my days
And cutting up my nights like a goddamn knife
And it got me thinking, no matter how far
I just wanted to get back to where you are
– “My Own Soul’s Warning,” The Killers
Flowers holds center stage more so than perhaps ever before on Imploding the Mirage, yet surrounding him is a dazzling array of color brought on by his bandmates’ contributions, as well as the diverse cast of characters joining The Killers. Sometimes it’s the little things – like the George Harrison-esque guitar licks lining “Blowback,” or the muted chugs sparking light throughout “Dying Breed.” Elsewhere, the sheer roar of lead single “Caution” (and its classic Americana story of small-town, big-city movement) shines like the massive anthem it was always meant to be.
If The Killers have in the past exercised temperance or any kind of reserve in avoiding “bombast,” those shackles have been relinquished on Imploding the Mirage, where even the brooding, softer songs have a sense of size. “Lightning Fields” and title song “Imploding the Mirage,” the album’s fifth and tenth tracks respectively, seem to bookend each side of the album with brief moments of respite – yet even these quickly scale up into seismic emotional upheavals. Flowers evokes a sense of loss, love, and everlasting hope in “Lightning Fields,” a heartfelt duet with K.D. Lang that finds him dwelling in memories and dreams that seem fated to remain in their intangible state:
Last night I saw you dressed in white
Nothing around you
You were standing in the lightning field of love
You were waiting for the lightning to come
I didn’t want to wake up
I just wanted to run my fastest
To stand beside you
I just wanted to run my fastest to stand beside you
Lightning field of love
I didn’t want to wake up
I just wanted to run my fastest to stand beside you
Press your face to mine, name and raise a kid
Take the car out for a drive
It’s this kind of evocative poetry – a lyricism to which all can relate, whether they too share in such visions, experiences, or desires – that makes The Killers’ songs so utterly absorptive beyond their enchanting musicality. Everyone who’s felt life’s wear and tear understands the raw aching at the heart of a song like “Fire in Bone”:
I felt cast out
I felt eighty-sixed
I felt darkness
But I felt fire in bone
I felt no good
I felt lowdown
And I felt alone
I felt unknown
just as those who have or haven’t lived through the storms of time with a partner can appreciate the level of vulnerability, reflection, and open-eyed observation in the band’s soaring love song, “Dying Breed”:
When facing the wind out with you
We rallied and raised up
So now when she comes back kickin’
We’ll know what we’re made of
There’s gonna be opposition
We got everything we need
Ooh baby we’re a dying breed
From the coveted touch of a girl in love
I was lifted by the sound of a spirit in need
Baby, we’re a dying breed
I don’t know what you want from me
Sometimes I don’t know what to do
It’s like I’m screaming in a dream
It’s like I can’t get through
What if we’re not prepared for this
What if we just can’t find the trail
And I remember the promise I made
And the way that I felt
And whether Brandon Flowers is examining his faith, reflecting on marriage, or weaving audiences through fresh tales of escape and self-discovery, all ten of Imploding the Mirage‘s tracks evoke depth and balance: There’s the glitz and glamor of the band’s earliest days – forever memorialized in Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town – with the seasoned perspective of those in their late 30s who have braved the turmoil, weathered the turbulence, and can still find many a reason to smile and laugh.
Inside and out, The Killers’ sixth album is anthemic, explosive, and overwhelmingly cinematic. It’s a buoyant new collection in which we can lose ourselves, only to learn something new in the process of rediscovery and becoming. It’s a forty-minute tale of hardship and triumph, ambiguous so as to fit most any situation yet specific enough for us to know that we could be that main character. In reckoning with the hard items and sticking around for the good ones, The Killers have unleashed an album that so perfectly rises to the moment, where the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to affect day-to-day life around the world. Whether we’re in the streets or rocking out in the safety of our own homes, that intoxicating energy enshrined on record is an emotional sustenance – rejuvenating as much as it is purely inspirational.
The impassioned words of “Caution” continue to ring out into the darkness, long after The Killers’ light fades from earshot.
I’m throwin’ caution, what’s it gonna be?
Tonight the winds of change are blowing wild and free
If I don’t get out, out of this town
I just might be the one who finally burns it down
I’m throwin’ caution
Whether they’ve actually found the fountain of youth or not, The Killers are, well, killing it.
Imploding the Mirage is out everywhere August 21, 2020.
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📸 © 2020
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