American artist Thomas Blackshear’s 1996 painting Dance Of The Wind And Storm depicts two figures gliding across a glowing sky – a bearded man as the wind and, in his arms, a woman as the storm. When The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers first came across it, it struck a chord with him to the point that he knew it had to be the artwork for the band’s sixth studio album, ‘Imploding The Mirage’. One look at the painting tells you most of what you need to know about the subject matter of this new record. When Flowers first broached the subject of his wife Tana’s PTSD that was heavily linked to Las Vegas on 2017’s ‘Wonderful Wonderful’, he laid out the raw pain and fear that came with it. He picks up that topic again here but, this time, the tone is different – more optimistic, more healing.
In its lyrics, Flowers is the wind guiding Tana to better lands. The album is littered with reassuring, sweet lines of devotion. On the KD lang-featuring ‘Lightning Fields’, Flowers whispers: “I just wanted to run my fastest and stand beside you.” The Talking Heads x Bowie groove of ‘Fire In Bone’ finds him a little regretful, recalling a scene of being met in the road on his return from tour. “You fell on my neck/And you took me home,” he sighs in his inimitable croon. “After all that I took from you/After all that I put you through/Here I am.” ‘Dying Breed’, which begins with a rickety chug but soon blooms into classic Killers epic grandeur, best encapsulates things though. For his part, the frontman told NME this song is “the prettiest or most romantic” he’s ever written and it’s hard not to swoon a little at his assertion that “we’re cut from a stained glass mountain/Baby, we’re a dying breed”. But it’s not always easy to give the support your partner needs and, later, Flowers becomes wracked with anxiety. “What if we’re not prepared for this?” he cries. “What if we just can’t find the trail?” Growing old together and ageing seem to be on Flowers’ mind too – perhaps understandably seeing as he’ll turn 40 next year. He beautifully explores that territory on the Peter Gabriel-indebted ‘When The Dreams Run Dry’, suggesting that we’ve got a lot more to look forward to from The Killers as the years pass. “Guess it comes with age,” he ponders. “You start to wonder about the time theft/How much of it you’ve got left.”
Where he’s taking on more responsibility in his personal life, within the band he, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr seem to be loosening up a bit. The Killers have never really been ones to collaborate with outside musicians, but here a whole host of other players take their turn adding to ‘Imploding The Mirage’. As Flowers sings on ‘My God’, “control is overrated” after all. Weyes Blood, KD Lang and Lucius tackle the female vocals across the record, giving a voice to the storm, including on the crunching march of ‘My God’. Singer-songwriter Blake Mills and The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel sneak into the instrumental framework on a handful of songs but the biggest coup of all comes in the form of Lindsey Buckingham. The Fleetwood Mac star
adds some of his typically anthemic guitar work to the surging sparkle of ‘Caution’, one of the record’s most urgent and best songs.
Six albums in, The Killers have their core sound finely honed – a uniquely euphoric sound that conjures up images of both road tripping through the desert and the glitz and tacky glam of the neon lights of Vegas. On ‘Imploding The Mirage’, the band add some new layers to things without stripping away that DNA. ‘Lightning Fields’ mixes a New Order-reminiscent bassline, big gospel backing vocals, and the offbeat spirit of Kate Bush. ‘My Own Soul’s Warning’ is cavernous and atmospheric, until it subsides to a more expected sound with added twinkling xylophones.
Not every new experiment pays off though. ‘Blowback’ brings together shuffling guitars, a swooping country-tinged slide melody and ‘80s synths to create something that sounds like it fit more into Spoon or The War On Drugs’ catalogues than The Killers. ‘Running Towards A Place’, meanwhile, starts off sounding like the theme tune to a gritty ‘70s cop drama, but fades into something fairly unmemorable. The title ‘Imploding The Mirage’ refers to, according to Flowers, the common occurrence of Las Vegas landmarks being torn down in favour of something bigger, shinier and newer, erasing the city’s identity one piece at a time. Although he and Vannucci Jr are now settled in new homes in Utah, the same personality peeling process hasn’t befallen the band – far from it. This is, for the most part, vintage Killers – glittering, gigantic and boldly triumphant.