It’s been sixteen years since Hot Fuss, The Killers’ debut – one that quickly gathered a wide and devout fanbase, as well as critical acclaim – was released; thus triggering a legacy that would go on to create four more studio albums. Each had their own singles. And each brought yet more into the fold of our favourite pop-rock troupe, plagued with the ‘indie rock’ label at first, and led by the modestly charismatic Brandon Flowers.
2020 has been, let’s face it, a bit of a shit year. It’s brought a global pandemic, death, civil unrest, violence and a kind of general restlessness to us all. It also delayed the production of The Killer’s sixth studio effort, Imploding the Mirage. In March we were given our first taste; the frankly astounding ‘Caution’ – featuring ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. From there, three further singles and countless release dates later, it’s finally here. And boy, is it glorious.
The entire album doubles down on what The Killers have released before; themes of small, Sam’s Town life and hopeful despair in equal measure, but undeniably bound in infectious riffs and epic choruses. Continuing the cosmic-synth waves of the band’s Day and Age days, (with the future of axe-man Dave Keuning still up in the air after not being directly involved in the album’s recording), Imploding the Mirage is undeniably a Killers album. And perhaps their best yet. It fuses the undoubtedly ’80s inspired synth-pop with formidable doses of heartland rock, Springsteen style – and all from the mind and heart of Flowers’ own experiences.
The album opens with ‘My Own Soul’s Warning’, a track that will probably go on to become one of the best modern arena tracks of all time because, let’s be honest, it was written for those crowds. The drawn-out, ethereal opening of Flowers’ cryptic motto simply thunders into such an ‘80s synth riff, charging at full speed much like the figures upon its album’s cover. It carries the torch from ‘Have All The Songs Been Written?’ beautifully – the closing track on the band’s last album, Wonderful Wonderful – It’s a feelgood anthem (much of …Mirage is, really) and it knows this, self-aware; electrifying with every crashing drumbeat. The album’s does suffer from repetition in its sound and simplistic riffs. But if the song sounds good, I don’t care how long it lasts, really.
‘Blowback’ is perhaps the band’s most mature piece of the record; still with building chorus and joyful backbeat yet packed with haunting closing melodies and verses of the melancholy. ‘Blowback’ gives a real Tom Petty vibe; something not unknown to the album given its roots. The track introduces us to the kind of ‘icon’ of …Mirage, a small-town girl with odds stacked against her and hopeless aspirations – akin to that of Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars?’ (and probably countless others). It’s also an icon that mirrors the life of Brandon Flowers himself; in a record clearly packed with raw emotion. ‘Blowback’ just sounds more adult than the rest of Imploding the Mirage, though not to its detriment. It’s a beautiful track and bound to be a live favourite.
‘Dying Breed’ is much in the same vein of the album’s opener; with a thumping backbeat alerting us of imminent Killers barrage. Sure enough, two minutes into the song and Flowers’ throws open the doors, bathing us in light and grand, epic sound. It would be simply incredible if this wasn’t the nature of the album in general. Then again, you wouldn’t accuse Def Leppard’s Hysteria of being anything less than spectacular just because every song on it is big and brash.
Imploding the Mirage invests the slot of lead single to ‘Caution’, and really, I don’t think anyone could knock that decision. It has the added bonus of introducing Lindsey Buckingham – fired from former band Fleetwood Mac and staying silent for months after emergency surgery following a heart attack – to a whole new generation, but on its own terms’ strides proud above the rest. The song’s celestial opening crashes into a torrent of drums and howling vocals with every chorus; furthering the story of a girl searching for something more. ‘If I don’t get out, out of this town, I just might be the one who finally burns it down’ is such a staggeringly powerful line and frontman Flowers nails it perfectly. We all need to ‘throw caution’ to the wind sometime. The final minute of the track delivers us a guitar solo from Buckingham that still sends goosebumps racing through my body with each listen. Imploding the Mirage has its fair share of peaks, but ‘Caution’ is in a whole other realm. Olympus among mere Everests.
‘Lightning Fields’ doesn’t reach the lofty arena heights of its predecessor on Mirage but holds to it a kind of real profound emotion that runs throughout. Guest vocalist (the legendary) k.d. lang, sounds positively phenomenal beside Flowers, both delivering an undoubtedly incredible track which moves the very soul. ‘Lightning Fields’ has a real early Killers sound in its blood (somewhere between Sam’s Town and Day and Age). ‘Fire in Bone’ was picked as the album’s second single; an interesting choice. After the release of titanic ‘Caution’, it caused me to question where this album was heading; with funky bassline and jangly, heartland-style guitar All the same, it caused the feeling of otherworldness swell inside of me with every punctuated chorus. And that’s what Imploding the Mirage does best. It creates a kind of nether zone where everything hangs in the air and this sense of grandeur encompasses all. ‘Fire in Bone’ is one of …Mirage’s more forgettable tracks sure – I see it cited as a lot of fans’ least favourite regularly – but Flowers’ vocals still stand out as he speaks of the pain he’s caused others and how he’s risen a better man.
‘Running Toward A Place’ has an almost synthwave feel to it, further solidifying the band’s direction in the absence of guitarist Keuning – he is still a band member, however – and gently pushing the genre boundaries of Imploding the Mirage. It has a vibe of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ in the chorus, and just rolls on by.
‘My God’ is quite possibly Imploding the Mirage’s magnum opus; the hidden gem of this already impressive track listing – in the way that it sounds a surefire single; if four sensible picks had not already been selected. The chorus – which, like much of the record, builds and builds; erupting into a wall of jubilating sound – chants the ever-positive, ‘Love cannot be understated… My god, it’s like a weight has been lifted.’. Weyes Blood’s vocals take the song from Himalayan heights to the realms of pure K2; slaying time and time again with every wavering note. In short, it’s great.
‘When the Dreams Run Dry’ pack the Buckingham-style guitar rushes of ‘Caution’, fused with the sonic odysseys of ‘Lightning Field’ and ‘Running Toward A Place’. Whilst it probably isn’t quite as good as such picks (…Mirage’s weakest in my opinion), it does provide the same escape – even if at times it can be too much to take in fully.
‘Imploding the Mirage’ is, as perceptive listeners will note, the title track. Flowers bares all in this love letter of a tune, dealing with falling in love with the unexpected and the unknown. Finally, the initial, modern art-invoking pretentiousness of the record’s title is explained; love can alter your perceptions of what you know the world to be. It can shatter such walls and grab at your very being with both hands – making you stop and see how sweet life can really be. It was Flowers meeting his wife. And that means a thousand songs. In verse and sound, ‘Imploding the Mirage’ is a four-minute slice of pop-rock nirvana. And a truly worthy closer. Before I even slid the CD in, I pondered on the track’s placement. But one listen later and it made sense. We’re shown throughout the futility of dreams and the hopeless of life at times (interspersed with catchy choruses and high points proving frequent, thankfully). But through it all, at the end of things, love can’t be beaten or knocked. This one took a few tries to grow on me, but when it did, it did.
I’ve always been a fan of The Killers. If you want an example of ‘rock’ being done today in the modern day, then these guys are probably the biggest and best example of that. From Hot Fuss to …Mirage, they’ve shown themselves to be champions of power pop and rocker anthems fit for stadium consumption. But though their career has no shortage of timeless singles, their sixth album, Imploding the Mirage, proves a testament to their longevity and skill all these years later. The Killers are on top of the world with this one, and so they should be. The songwriting is fantastic; fueled with real experience, and real life. The melodies are fantastic, creeping from subtle, slithering serpents of the underbush to blazing phoenixes of sound and song. The tracks are just downright intoxicating. This is the year of The Killers. Let us all be thankful for their spree.