The Killers, “Imploding the Mirage”

The Killers
Imploding the Mirage
ISLAND/VIRGIN EMI
8/10

The Killers’ sixth album really makes you miss music festivals where you stand in a crowded field and have towering stacks of speakers blast your face with rock anthems. It’s a mood that continues to be missed by many in 2020, and Imploding the Mirage underscores that feeling in neon-soaked, billboard-sized font. The cover for the new album, by American artist Thomas Blackshear, is called Dance of the Wind and Storm, and it depicts intertwined, heavenly thunderheads drifting across an American landscape, dropping a sheet of rain behind them. As soon as the full band kicks in for opening track “My Own Soul’s Warning” the imagery makes sense—this is cloud-busting rock that just moves in one oversized, melodic mass.

With perhaps the exception of the slight C-pop influence heard on “My God,” this record isn’t messing around with as much genre experimentation as that heard on 2008’s Day & Age or 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful. It sounds a lot like a bigger, hi-fidelity bite of the Sam’s Town apple this time, and it works as a swaggering distillation of The Killers’ best Springsteeen and ’80s pop proclivities.

The Boss build and liftoff on “Dying Breed” hits around the middle of the track with an epic drum fill. Brandon Flowers still gravitates toward the dustland fairytale people on “Blowback” and “Caution.” There’s a “featherweight queen” with “Hollywood eyes” and “blacktop white trash” littering the landscape, all keeping the lyrics squarely in the band’s fastlane despite this being the first record after leaving Las Vegas.

Probably the most infectious song on the album is the chart-topping debut single “Caution.” Its ascending and descending melody finds Flowers dancing around the vowels and consonants of the titular word. He’s having a lot of fun with the melodies on this record (he does it again on the ’80s rock anthem “When the Dreams Run Dry”).  And Imploding the Mirage is bursting with funhouse moments like this, aided by warm and engaging production from Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Kacey Musgraves) and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. 

The piano-led ballad “Lightning Fields” dims the house lights a bit and features a beautiful vocal contribution from k.d. lang. Elsewhere, Weyes Blood adds a nice ’70s disco layer to “My God” before the full band slams down like a series of thunderclaps. There are more contributions from the world of rock and pop—a rarity for The Killers: Lindsey Buckingham plays the soaring guitar solo on “Caution,” and we get additional cameos from The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel (“Blowback”), Blake Mills, and Lucius. Even Ariel Rechtshaid drops into the mix on the new wave roots-rocker “Running Towards a Place,” which sounds like a War on Drugs track.

Brandon Flowers has a line during the title track that feels like a good link to the general ethos of the record. He sings, “Sometimes it takes a little bit of courage and doubt to push your boundaries out beyond your imagining.” This is the most assured step forward for The Killers in many years, so don’t worry…while we are all out in the world weighing our odds this year, Brandon Flowers is out there imploding the mirage with rock melodies.

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