Just as disco has been revived in recent months with artists such as Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and Lady Gaga, The Killers, on their new record Imploding the Mirage, eye a similar genre reawakening: ’70s and ’80s anthemic rock. This is a definitive departure from the band’s past works, which consist largely of alternative and modernized rock stylings.
The genre shift is not surprising, however, given that throwback tones have taken over pop music in 2020. For The Killers, the production and feel of anthemic rock appears to come quite naturally. This aptitude for arena-worthy music makes Imploding the Mirage an overall exhilarating experience, one that offers much needed escape, excitement and hopefulness.
Imploding the Mirage undoubtedly evokes the likeness of Bruce Springsteen, a clear influence for the record. The Springsteenian, bombastic synths and reverbed vocals give the album a larger-than-life feel, evoking the thrill of running down big city streets and screaming lyrics as the rest of the world melts away. This grandiose feeling of Imploding the Mirage traverses past the music, bleeding into the overall tone and even the album cover. It shapes the experience The Killers have developed, one that feels fleshed out and congruent. The album’s artwork, a painting of a stormy, western landscape with godlike figures, echoes a major theme of the record: optimism.
The record’s opening track, “My Own Soul’s Warning,” captures the grand, ever-expanding sonic landscape of Imploding the Mirage while simultaneously introducing the teetering, optimistic tone that is carried throughout. The track begins slowly and softly, easing into every syllable and allowing ethereal synths to surround the listener. As the song progresses, the beat picks up, entirely transforming the track into a raging, anthemic banger. The vocals feel confident and poised — a much brighter tone ensuing. The intro and near-conclusion of “My Own Soul’s Warning” feels like a battle between opposing sides; here, The Killers engage in fights for optimism, the same conflict visualized on the album art and continually challenged throughout the record.
On tracks such as “Blowback,” this optimism leads, and The Killers radiate a buoyancy that becomes infectious. These tracks carry the introduction’s lightness, continuing the rock ’n’ roll energy that fuels The Killers’ sound. “Fire in Bone,” in a similar vein, evokes the vocal stylings and lyrical storytelling of Elton John, another apparent influence for The Killers’ sixth album. It’s in these tracks that nostalgia for ’70s and ’80s rock reaches its apex, allowing listeners to transport back to the rock ’n’ roll golden ages.
On tracks such as “Caution,” however, The Killers struggle to see the bright side, holding resentment while singing “If I don’t get out/ Out of this town/ I just might be the one who finally burns it down.” While the lyrics consist largely of conflict and frustration, the track’s production remains upbeat, high tempo and full of adrenaline. A tension thus unfolds between sound and meaning, likely parallel to the clash of hopefulness and melancholy that follows the record throughout. The experience that arises from this contradiction is both thoughtful and mindlessly fun, largely thanks to The Killers’ nostalgic experimentation combined with the depth of the group’s tonal and lyrical craft.
The album’s latter half, while consistent, doesn’t always hold the same authentic energy that was first introduced in the opening tracks. The vintage musical timbres become an echochamber that, at points, lack the dynamic or surprising shifts that continually breathe life into the music. The lyrical craft, however, remains witty and well-placed, often keeping Imploding the Mirage afloat.
In its entirety, Imploding the Mirage brings transcendent, thoughtful nostalgia with The Killers’ own personal spin, resulting in a work that goes well beyond the average and pleases significantly more often than it disappoints. Here, The Killers teach us that despite how things may appear, they sometimes hold much greater hope than we are able to see.