The Killers this week revealed the first single “Runaways” off forth-coming album, BATTLE BORN.
The opening notes will raise an eyebrow with well-versed Killers fans as it’s eerily reminiscent of their latest holiday release “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball” mixed with the delicate piano sounds that marked lead singer Brandon Flowers’ solo debut Flamingo. But don’t get off your horse yet, one minute in the tune explodes with galloping drumbeats of the first taste of a chorus that will surely grow on us.
“Runaways” is the Killers first new single (other than their annual holiday releases in support of RED) in 3+ years. After a mixed response to their 3rd album Day & Age, the pressure is on to deliver what they’re best at – rousing choruses, stadium rock anthems, a slice of Americana. Die-hards flexed to the pop appeal of hits like “Human” and “Spaceman”, (over) produced by Stuart Price, but admitted to missing the grittier rock ‘n roll sounds of sophomore release Sam’s Town. New fans found a band that surprised them as they went back through the catalogue and discovered something rougher sounding, or at least edgier, different. Regardless of when you hitched onto the Vegas-born covered wagon making its way through the wild, wild west, you’ve no doubt been anxiously awaiting the next release – BATTLE BORN – scheduled for September 18th.
Our first taste with “Runaways” does conjure up small town America, with its classic storytelling lyrics that no doubt everyone can identify with – that need for something more, the need to escape – to runaway. Without the lyrics weaving a tapestry of interest, it feels a little soft till the second half, which bursts upon us with more guitar and drums filling your ears and reverberating in your chest. You can’t miss the obvious Springsteen influence – “Turn the engine over and my body just comes alive” – as we envision the runaways escaping down Thunder Road in their Chevy pick-up. It feels like we’re rejoining a story of hopeful lovers started in/on Sam’s Town.
While song writing for the Killers is touted as largely a collaborative effort, Flowers clearly had a heavy hand in the melody and overall production, as the yelps and sentimental vocals remind us of Flowers’ solo tunes “Crossfire” and “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts”. Which is not a bad thing – if you’re a fan, you should be pleased. Can’t we already visualize Flowers up on a speaker, fist in the air, quipping “OH, OH, OH”? And didn’t everyone claim “Crossfire” sounded like the Killers? Full circle people.
Bottom line – we’ll take it. It’s a start and we know it’ll play well live. Tens of thousands of us jumping with one fist in the air as we claim “ain’t we all just runaways.” I know I’m looking forward to that. But I’m not giving up hope that there’s less of a produced sound, more young Killers-esque grit, in store for us on the rest of the album. If we’re “battle born” and “runaways”, let’s get our spurs on, get dirty, and rock even just a bit harder.