A Matter of Time
Alec WeaverSeptember 25, 2012 8:10 PM CDT
Our generation has royally screwed music for every generation that will come after us. Not only do we tolerate dub step, but some actually enjoy it. We have also generated such classy acts as LMFAO and T-Mills. The number one travesty however is that the art of the album has been practically killed off by the rise of services like iTunes, which has given the consumer the ability to only purchase the songs that he or she likes. Convenient, yes, but that convenience detracts from not only the discovery of good deep-tracks, but also from the story arc of the album. The new Killers album Battle Born is one last hold-out for the art of the album, with something for every Killers fan nestled between each note.
Battle Born is a smooth blend of the entire Killers' discography that has been maturated in the oaken barrel of Americana. Hints of Hot Fuss, Sam's Town, and Day & Age can be heard in the synth, guitar, and drums while Flowers belts out deeply personal lyrics reminiscent of his solo album Flamingo. Yet as Battle Born is as much a culmination of the Killers' previous work, it is also its own beast entirely, completely distinct in its style from all of the Vegas-based band's previous work, a truly solid album all the way through.
Battle Born tells the story of a turbulent relationship between two lovers who allow themselves to get swept up in naïve romance only to have their hearts broken...in Nevada, of course. In order to analyze and explain the narrative, I will refer to the male in this relationship as Brandon and the girl he loves I will refer to as Jenny.
Flesh and Bone: The high-energy opening track is familiar and unique ground for the band. The intermittent spoken word sections toward the end of the track and the backing male choir lend themselves toward creating a truly dynamic song. "Flesh and Bone" gives exposition on our character "Brandon", a confident and ambitious young man "Cut from the cloth that bears the name 'Battle Born' ".
Runaways: The first single off of Battle Born had me worried I will admit, but halfway through, the signature synth blooms like a desert rose and redeems the track. Brandon's courting of a childhood sweetheart comes on fast and heavy. He's "been on her trail for a little while" and when she, Jenny, finally comes around, they fall head over heels. Both cannot wait to be married and their relationship moves fast, quickly getting engaged because they "got time, but that ain't much". As they progress through being young and married, Brandon finds that although he has the best intentions to provide for his new family, his youth causes him to "slip when the nights get wild". He cannot get used to domestic life and so, unable to settle down, he "turn[s] the engine over and [his] body just comes alive" running from his personal demons and leaving Jenny to raise the children on her own.
The Way it Was: Ronnie Vannucci's progressive drumming is what really gives this song its appeal. Brandon, in the midst of running from his problems, evaluates why he left. Outside of Esmeralda County, he has a revelation that he couldn't go on living the domestic life because it would never be as exciting or fulfilling as when he and Jenny were young and free. Through domestication, all of their old plans have "fallen through" and he realizes that he wants back the Zeitgeist of their early relationship.
Here With Me: The hair metal-esqe guitar of Dave Keuning brings this power ballad to life. As the wheels turn on Brandon's car, he reminisces about his and Jenny's early relationship. Although he now feels the weight of his decision to leave, he still doesn't have the maturity to confess that he was in the wrong. Even after seeing Jenny in a restaurant: "And instead of walking towards you I ran away". However, even after admitting to himself that he was in the wrong, at the end of the track he becomes delusional and begins to believe that Jenny will leave her domestic life and say that she wants him back.
Matter of Time: The most Killer-esqe song on the album, the energetic and upbeat "Matter of Time" contains one of the most interesting plot points of the Battle Born saga. The Killers are no strangers to dark, and even disturbing lyrics (research their 'Murder trilogy'). Brandon feels certain by this point that Jenny wants things to be back the way they were, but she is burdened by her domestic responsibilities; she is keeping her true feelings under "Lock and key". In an effort to liberate her from her new life, Brandon burns down their old house and sees the charred remnants of their dwelling as "the wreckage of broken dreams and burned out halos and it's here on our street". Whether or not this is all a fantasy or Brandon actually goes through with it is uncertain, but at this point one could speculate that the title refers to not only how it is a matter of time before Jenny goes back to Brandon, but rather a matter of time before Brandon snaps.
Deadlines and Commitments: Flowers' breathy falsetto sets this tune apart. The listener finally gets a look at Jenny's side of the situation. She understands and sympathizes with Brandon, and still loves him assuring him that she is "on his side". She also encourages him by saying how he needs to persevere and if needed, find someone else before the "strategies" to win her back begin (see above). She ends by assuring him that no matter what, her offer to come back will always be standing.
Miss Atomic Bomb: Once again, drumming wizard Ronnie Vannucci delivers a powerhouse performance in the second single off the album. The narrative of this particular song is harder to place in the romantic saga, however one can still recognize the themes that have been prevalent throughout. If the reader will permit me to make a stretch, one can make the assumption that this is further exposition on the star crossed lovers and their relationship. Remembering back to "The Way it Was", Brandon worries that "A thief stole your heart". Brandon obviously is worried that there is someone else that might have wooed his woman. "Miss Atomic Bomb" paints Brandon as a secret admirer of Jennifer before they started their relationship. She was a bombshell out of his league, in a relationship with another boy whom Brandon is jealous of i.e. "Your soul was innocent, she kissed him and she painted it black". The narration also deviates from Brandon's first person narrative to a mocking omnipotent third, telling Brandon how he "should have seen his little face, burnin' for love". This malicious observer also informs us how Jenny now feels and how her relationship before meeting Brandon ended in another betrayal: "It feels just like a dagger buried deep in your back you run for cover but you can't escape the second attack"
The Rising Tide: The gnarly, distortion-filled guitar solo of "The Rising Tide" lends itself well to this point in our operatic narrative. "The Rising Tide" details the maelstrom of emotion our protagonist is feeling as he is flooded with memories of what was, what is, and what could have been.
The Heart of a Girl: Sultry instrumentals and deeply intimate lyrics allow us as listeners to get a glimpse of the gentler, more sensual aspects of the protagonists, with Brandon reflecting on the first night he and his lover spent together. Some of the lyrics, in my opinion, are very...ahem...adult, if interpreted in certain ways.
From Here on Out: Twangy almost country style guitar gifts this short ditty with an upbeat emotion. This is starkly contrasted with the cynical lyrics as told by Brandon's friends that explain his final decision to remain separated from his beloved and his becoming more isolated from others who care about him in the process: "Hey, from here on out, friends are gonna be hard to come by, left us wonderin' what it all was about, he had it easy, man he chose the hard way, walk that old, lonely road in the shadow of a doubt"
Be Still: The lowest point in the album, "Be Still" is redeemed by the ambient almost angelic backing instrumentals—that is, if you can get through the electronic drumming that sounds like it was ripped from the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack. An effort to lift the spirits of our broken protagonist, the narration could be interpreted one of two ways. The first is that older Brandon is reflecting on his life and warning younger Brandon of his mistakes; the second interpretation could be that of Jenny reaffirming that Brandon should do all he can to persevere through this time in his life.
Battle Born: The Killers assure us that they are back and better than ever in this arena with this worthy and highly passionate track. All four members come to a triumphant crescendo beginning with Keuning's opening guitar riff that winds in to the Stoermer/Vannucci rhythm combo and climaxes with an anthem of synth. We as listeners are left to interpret the fate of our young lovers, but as the lyrics suggest, Brandon cannot go back to his wife because although he is becoming more mature, he is still in love with the old days: "The season may pass but the dream doesn't die". The titular track also gives us an inkling as to how Jenny leaves Brandon with a last word of encouragement: "When they break your heart, when they cause your soul to mourn, remember what I said, boy you was battle born" and how she herself has fallen short of her domestic duties through this turbulent time: "I always saw you as a kind of keeper a mother to a child but your boys have grown soft and your girls have gone wild" However, he and his wife have finally gained the strength to persevere: "Up against the wall there's something dying on the street when they knock you down you're gonna get back on your feet"
And persevere the Killers have. This is a very buyable album, so support the band, buy it, and listen through it. Let me know your thoughts, I'm always willing to discuss my favorite band.