Label: Island Records
Release Date: 21st August 2020
"Imploding the Mirage is simply The Killers being The Killers. It tells stories and it questions self, all the while holding the potential to fill a stadium."
American rock band The Killers are veterans to the stadium rock scene, having been releasing studio albums since Hot Fuss in 2004, the very album that produced the iconic club night closer ‘Mr Brightside’ and other tunes such as ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ and ‘Somebody Told Me’. Flashforward to 2019, the band headlined the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury with a set packed full of career highlights, almost as if the songs were perfectly built for that stage. How, in 2020, when they are at the point in their career where they hold complete creative license, does a band of their stature produce a record that continues their vision, but is altogether new? Imploding the Mirage, their sixth studio album, is an excellent attempt at this.
The lead single ‘Caution’, released in March, is an anthemic belter as if the band put a jigsaw puzzle together to create an archetypal stadium song. However, as much as it exists to be a jewel in a stadium set, in typical The Killers fashion, it skillfully tells a story. It depicts a girl trying to break out of the isolating life in the deserts of Las Vegas, showing off the band’s hometown roots. According to the band, the chorus has existed for a long time, but they only just found a fit for it. The imagery in the lyrics and the boisterous sound is an excellent introduction to what Imploding the Mirage had in store.
Prior to the album release, the band also released ‘Blowback’ and ‘My Own Soul’s Warning’, which ended up being the opener to the album. ‘Blowback’ starts with a synth motif that wouldn’t be alien to a song by Robyn, but goes into a slightly toned-down rock song, compared to ‘Caution’, that also wouldn’t be alien to Springsteen. Once again it’s a storytelling piece, whereas ‘My Own Soul’s Warning’ is a piece of self-assessment, with potential religious undertones and returns to the explosive sound heard on ‘Caution’. Between these three pre-releases, the listener knows exactly what they’re in for from Imploding the Mirage. A few more surprises would have been nice.
When thinking about The Killers, one doesn’t immediately jump to thinking of them as romantic. They romanticise aspects of life, but the songs they are best known for are not necessarily love songs. However, on this new offering, the highlights are perhaps the album’s more loving moments. According to frontman Brandon Flowers, ‘Dying Breed’ contains the most romantic lyric he has ever written. The song illustrates the old-fashioned question of whether two can become one and a declaration of unwavering support for the narrator’s partner, but not in a cheesy, stomach-churning way. Lyrics such as “When facing the wind got wicked / We rallied and raised up” and “When everyone’s compromising / I’ll be your diehard” still hold the same implicit sentiment as most lyrics by The Killers but have that edge of romance. Accompanied still by driving drum-heavy production, it’s a clever touch of intimacy, but with the sound of defiance, just as the lyrics suggest.
Other highlights also include ‘My God’, a collaboration with Californian musician Natalie Laura Mering a.k.a Weyes Blood, and the closing title track. The combination of the contrasting voices of Flowers and Mering create an almost spiritual-sounding chant, embellishing lyrics such as “Don’t talk to me about forgiveness / My God, just look who’s back in business.” The use of Mering’s ethereal voice to echo Flowers’ is a really clever production device to inject the song with spirituality, illustrating the religious tones of the song’s name.
‘Imploding the Mirage’, to me, is the most interesting of the tracks, purely for how it changes up the sound established by the rest of the album. It could even be described as slightly poppy, with the appearance of an Elton John-style piano. It also feels like a show tune that could appear on a Vegas stage, giving me visions of Flowers in a sequin suit, holding an Elvis microphone. For an album which stays at a very similar pace throughout, it’s a strange, yet welcomed ending. It confirms my main criticism: I wish they had changed the sound up more throughout the whole record.
On their previous album, Wonderful Wonderful, there were slower tracks that broke up the ambient stadium anthems, but this album did lack refreshing breathers; it lacked breaks from the energy. Luckily, standing at only forty-two minutes, they just about get away with it, but if it’d been any longer, I would be requesting a water break.
Imploding the Mirage is simply The Killers being The Killers. It tells stories and it questions self, all the while holding the potential to fill a stadium. Maybe I would have wanted more newness, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Words by Sarah Jewers.
24th August 2020.