The Killers blessed us on the 21st of August 2020 with a new album, Imploding The Mirage. This is the group’s 6th studio album. The first single from the album, ‘Caution’, was released in March this year and has an energy to it that I think we all need. It seemed very fitting to its context (2020), and I would say the itchy feet most of us have felt over the last few months only increased the hype around the album. The release was certainly keenly anticipated by myself, and I think many of us were eager to see what this new era would bring.
This was the first Killers album not to feature guitarist Dave Keuning. Additionally, bass guitarist Mark Stoermer–who has taken a back-seat within the band since 2016–had minimal input beyond contributing to the bass and guitar remotely on a few of the tracks. This created a new mood to the music, but without losing that classic Killers feel in the melodies and poetic lyrics. Despite the loss of Keuning, the album features guitar contributions from Lindsey Buckingham, the ex-lead guitarist from Fleetwood Mac. This could be why Impoding The Mirage is less bass and guitar-heavy than The Killers previous sound, but the band has made it work. This shift in sound has created this new era for them.
A Brief History of The Killers
The Killers cemented their legacy very early on with their debut album in 2004, Hot Fuss. This album featured ‘Mr. Brightside’, which to this day is their most popular track. It also graced us with ‘Somebody Told Me’, another hit. The entire album featured appealing hooks and an accessible feel, although it does not necessarily fall under the category of ‘pop’. The Killers’ second album, Sam’s Town (2006), was much rockier and featured songs that went on to be very successful in their own right, such as ‘For Reasons Unknown’. Released right on time two years later came Day and Age in 2008. This album is by far my personal favourite. It features ‘Human’, the second Killers song to become globally well-known, as well as hits ‘Spaceman’ and ‘A Dustland Fairytale’. This album felt slightly poppier to me, with a little less hard rock bass. This being said, the band had not lost any of their energy, and we still hear their signature, rocky guitar frequently. After this, however, there was a change in the band’s energy that led to two slightly stale albums.
In 2012 came the release of Battle Born. Although this album’s singles, ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ and ‘Runaways’, were very popular, the album didn’t stand up well to scrutiny. It came after the band had taken a hiatus, and seemed to be missing some sparkle. Critical reviews, while still positive, came in lower than the band’s previous albums. Similarly, Wonderful Wonderful did not have as much popularity with fans, and it only sold half as many copies as its predecessor. One of the tracks itself asks “Have all the songs been written?”, and it felt almost as if the band was running out of steam.
In January 2019, the band released ‘Land of the Free’ to comment on many social justice issues in the United States. The band had previously played at rallies and events for Barack Obama. This track was updated on the 8th of June 2020 to commemorate and condemn the death of George Floyd. The social awareness The Killers have is, in my opinion, one of the many reasons that so many of their songs resonate so deeply with so many of us. Another reason they hit so close to home is likely because they are all written entirely by the band. I think you can feel the emotion and the meaning behind the songs, which makes them resonate so much more. You can tell the artists are connected to their art, and every song they’ve put out feels meaningful–even the ones I don’t particularly like personally. For me, the original release of ‘Land of the Free’ was when I felt like the group was back to doing great things. Ever since the new album release was announced in late 2019, the anticipation has been rife.
Imploding The Mirage
Finally getting my hands on the album a few days ago was pretty exciting. Although I had some reservations due to the last two albums not quite being for me, I was confident in this one. As soon as I started listening, I could tell this album showed Flowers’ unique storytelling vision at its full potential, and it felt fresh and new. Perhaps the three years since Wonderful Wonderful were exactly what the band needed – a refresh period.
The album overall feels much lighter than your typical Killers’ work. There is a sense of ‘someone turned off the bass boost’, perhaps a consequence of losing Keuning and Stoermer on this one. Flowers did comment in a recent interview that it was trickier than usual to write music without Keuning. We have a strong presence of synthesizers, and the guitars are focal, although not as prominent as they have been in the past.
There is a more present feel to this album than its predecessors. You feel transported, but not in the same way as I have before. Perhaps that’s a reflection on how with-the-times these songs are. Yes, they give you stunning imagery and lyrical complexity, but it feels closer to home, at least for me.
Technically speaking, the album is less bass and guitar-heavy than what we are used to. It is still distinctive due to Flowers’ strong voice and the trademark enticing melodies, but something has shifted. We no longer have long rocky instrumentals and guitar solos. These have been replaced with more tightly woven lyrical melodies and calm riffs.
After my first listen all the way through, I was excited to delve a little deeper. There were lots of choruses that I felt caught up in immediately, and I could tell straight away that this album was going to claw back any credibility lost on two slightly disappointing albums. The vibe is noticeably more simplistic, but not in a negative way. The album is easy to pick up and get into. There is not too much to pick apart, compared to older works. The lower level of bass also makes the lyrics and melodies clearer the first time around, whereas it usually takes me a few more listens to become familiar with Killers tracks.
This discussion would not be complete without also touching upon the album art. The cover of this album is visually stunning and sets the scene for the natural imagery used throughout. The artwork, as well as the sound, emanates positivity, hope, and light. This cover art piece was created by illustrator Thomas Blackshear and is titled Dance of the Wind and Storm. Flowers, in a recent interview, stated that he felt all the songs in the album should “fit underneath the banner of what the image is saying”, and I think that’s a goal this album has met.
For those true fans, I am going to take you through a deeper evaluation track by track.
Track 1. My Own Soul’s Warning
This song feels like a gentle introduction to me. As the third single (released in June), it didn’t get me immediately. The stronger parts of the song felt slightly forced and didn’t quite have me. I also felt a little bit like I was listening to Bruce Springsteen, in a good way, but it wasn’t quite The Killers. However, half an hour later I realised I was still listening to it so I must say, it is catchy. If you’re anything like me, the thing that will stand out about this track is the underlying riff that is present throughout–in fact, I think it’s that riff that caught me. In the end, after a few listens, I found that this one grew on me more than any of the others. It feels like Flowers is sending us a message. The storytelling throughout the album is just as vivid as ever, and this song particularly is rich with metaphors about finding who you are. It’s not necessarily the strongest opening song, but a fitting introduction thematically–it is very majestic. It breathes a new era in every note.
Track 2. Blowback
This track has a strong opening hook, giving me memories of ‘Smile Like You Mean It’. As you get further into the song it has a very chilled vibe. The instrumental part has a different feel to Flowers’ usual style, and you can feel the energy that has gone into making this album a masterpiece. This track is quintessential Killers material, you couldn’t mistake it for anybody else, and it really sets the scene for the rest of the album. It has anthem potential. The lyrics didn’t particularly stand out to me at first, but there is something endearing about the whole package. You can feel the passion Flowers has as an advocate of women’s issues and the power behind his message. There’s a lot of backing guitar which creates a well-put-together sound. I have a feeling that, after a little bit of time, this is going to be one of the stand-out songs of the album.
Track 3. Dying Breed
Now, Dying Breed was the first song that took me by surprise. The introduction is a little quirky, we have a groovy bass, and the opening vocals are very clear. It drew me in immediately. As always, The Killers have managed to write this track as a romance without any hint of cheese, sap or cringe. It has an aged, almost 80s sound to it, and feels timeless. It is an uplifting song, and I think it was a great choice to be released a week before the album was dropped (August 14th). Would it be a Killers album without that one track that sinks hard into the rockier territory? I don’t think so. For me, this is that track for Imploding The Mirage. It starts off fairly gently, but in true ‘Dustland Fairytale’ fashion, it builds and builds. This being said, this album is distinctly the least rocky of all. There is no question that, without Keuning, the general sound is much more similar to Brandon Flowers’ solo music than it is to The Killers’ usual sound. This is not a critique–this song and others still go pretty hard–but not in quite the way that we are used to. Personally, I welcome the change. I have always been partial to the indie-rock vibe of The Killers, but this fresh, new sound is perfect for what I was ready for.
Track 4. Caution
The first single of the album, released 12th March 2020, it reached the top spot on both the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and the Rock Airplay chart. It features incredible steel guitar from Lindsey Buckingham, known for his role in Fleetwood Mac. Do you know those songs that seem to come to you just when you need them? Well, I feel that this entire album embodies that feeling. Having waited those few extra months for its release, it came just as quarantine was becoming unbearable. The bass riffs in this song are incredible, but without feeling too heavy. I find this combination makes it perfectly catchy without running the risk of it getting too much after a few plays.
This song specifically follows themes of feeling trapped, ingrained generational routines, and hope for the future. This gave it an edge right from the first few lines for me. I think, although you could make this case for a few of the songs on this album, that this song is the one that encapsulates the impeccable storytelling that Flowers does best. As one commenter on YouTube put it, “It’s someone’s life–their dreams and limitations, their lot and luck–in two sentences. Astonishing storytelling”. I agree with this summation. The first few lines tell the story of a woman living in a particularly patriarchal area, with her whole life planned out because of who she is and where she was born. Flowers has never shied away from telling us hard-hitting stories, and this is no different.
This song screams of hope to me. I can see myself revisiting it every few months and immediately being brought back to the moment that I’m in now. This song screams freedom to me.
Track 5. Lightning Fields
Track five had my attention from the start. With such an intriguing title, I was unsure what to expect. I was not disappointed. It feels like a self-reflection, something we all have been doing more of lately. It feels a little less original than the other tracks, from a personal standpoint. It’s very classically Killers, which I love, but initially, it did give me a slight sense of ‘have I heard this before?’. That being said, it was another song that started to stand out more and more the deeper I delved into the album and all of a sudden I was just as in love with this song as I was with all the others. I think perhaps its different-sounding instrumental track put me off at first, but this quickly became what was so catchy about it. Aspects of it make me think I could almost be listening to something written in the 70s. I can see this one being a real hit on the radio in a few weeks’ time if it is released as a single, and I dare you not to sing along.
Track 6. Fire In Bone
‘Fire In Bone’ was the second single to be released from this album; we were introduced to it in April. Now, I have a lot to say about this song. After my first listen to the album in full it was this song that I immediately went back to. Although, after listening to the whole album, I can no longer call it my favourite, when it was released in April it drew me in straight away. I loved this song quickly and still do. I also find it particularly emotive because it feels like a song giving thanks to those around you, which is something that feels close to my heart at the moment.
As ever, there are some very poetic lines to be found within this gem. The main verses are fairly standard, but the chorus is highly emotional and the final verse and bridge go pretty hard. I also had strong memories of Neil Young’s ‘Into the Black’ with some of the lyrics of this song, but that might just be a personal connection I’ve made. There is a big effort made in the second half of the song. I also find that the passion–while present in all tracks–is particularly emphasized here. It’s beautifully written and produced.
Track 7. Running Towards A Place
For me, this was the weak link of the album. The imagery is great: it makes me feel like it’s a sunny summer day and I’m just enjoying myself. There are some great instrumental ornamentations, and the backing is excellent, but I felt like I was missing something. It has an edge, especially in the beginning, but something wasn’t getting me.
As the song progresses, it maintains an even keel, with no big ‘wow’ moments for me. That being said, there is a swooping backing melody that compliments the main vocal melody beautifully. We also have, again, natural imagery–lightning once again, fields, sand, and wildflowers. There is nothing wrong with this track–and it’s undoubtedly ‘Killers’—but I felt underwhelmed. Perhaps this is another song that will grow on me over time. I will certainly give it the benefit of the doubt.
Track 8. My God
‘My God’ features vocals from Weyes Blood, and honestly? What a track! Somehow the first two times I went through the album I didn’t see anything special in this song, but once I had gotten over the initial thrill of going through everything, I realised this song was really standing out to me. I can already feel myself singing along to it in the clubs and pubs when we start going out again. There is something so, so catchy, energising, and deep about ‘My God’. Some critical reception has been negative about this song, suggesting Flowers’ obsession with love balladary is becoming dry and lacks subtlety, but I have personally never found The Killers’ take on romance to be overbearing. We really couldn’t have been blessed with a more country-disco style sing-along. Consider me obsessed. The band is, indeed, back in business.
Track 9. When The Dreams Run Dry
This song is the penultimate track, and despite the harrowing lyrics, it gives a breezy, hopeful impression. I love the variety in this song. It feels like something you would sing to your future self. It is strong, with an almost orchestral feel in the opening bars. However, the lyrics in the second half of the song lost me a little bit. Flowers reassures us that “we are all going to die” and it’s only downhill from there. I don’t think this will be one of my top songs on the album, but I can definitely see what Flowers was trying to do with it. I also hear something of ‘Shot in the Night’ to it, which is quite possibly my favourite Killers’ track of all time.
Track 10. Imploding The Mirage
Finally, we have the title track. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s very well deserved. The Killers have always known exactly how to give you catchy, fun, and upbeat songs while keeping it meaningful and a little deeper than mainstream pop themes. This is something Flowers does superbly and is present throughout the album. Once again, there is a mention of throwing away caution and just living free, which is the theme that features most heavily throughout the album.
It’s possibly the catchiest of them all, which is why it makes perfect sense to name the album as such. I can guarantee that listening to this song will put you in a better mood. I’m not sure if it is broadly likeable enough to become a big hit, but for me, it is definitely my new favourite song by the band. Not all of the lyrics fell into place in terms of comprehension for me initially, but this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the song in any way. It’s honestly a tune. Straight away it draws you in, there is no sitting through the introduction and wondering what you’re going to get, it’s brilliant straight away. It feels like a cliche to favour the title track of an album, but in this case, how could I not? We certainly go out with a bang.
The main takeaway for me is that this album is looking to the future (but, just in case you’re not fully ready to enter the future, you can purchase this new album on cassette if you so wish.) Through exquisite writing and metaphors about nature, we are being encouraged to just keep going, and reassured that better times are coming. There is something calming, not only about this sentiment, but also about the emphasis on nature. As the Daily Mail puts it, this album is “all killer no filler”.
Throughout there are repeated mentions of abandoning caution, at least three (separate) mentions of mirages, and two (separate) mentions of a ‘featherweight queen’. There is a musical tension throughout the album, which flows together nicely. There are no real lulls or tracks that I felt like I wanted to skip. If you haven’t already, I would urge you to get your hands on a copy of this album.