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“Imploding the Mirage”: The Killers Revisit Their Roots With a New ‘Celestial Rock’ Twist

After months of anticipation and adversity, it’s finally here: the Killers have dropped their long-awaited Imploding the Mirage. Following 2017’s Wonderful, Wonderful, it marks the band’s sixth studio album. Their newest record ties into vintage sounds and meaningful themes, tapping into the band’s early roots.

This record was quite a challenge for the Killers, who produced in the midst of a pandemic. It has faced quite a few challenges leading up to its release. Due to COVID-19 difficulties, the band was unable to finish production before the intended release date, which was originally May 21st.

After the initial release of the leading single, “Caution,” the band shocked listeners with their, yet familiar sound. With 70s influences and 80s synths, it left fans wondering what the rest of the album had in store.

A New, Nostalgic Sound

The Killers have essentially reinvented themselves with Imploding the Mirage. 

Though the album touches on themes central to the band’s consistent core message and aesthetic, the sound is a new experience. Crashing drums and synths guide the tell-tale lyrics, preluded by funky bass tabs and beautiful harmonies. Influenced by Fleetwood Mac guitarist and “Caution” collaborator Lindsey Buckingham, the band uses electric guitar to achieve crystal-like plucking. It’s ‘celestial rock,’ as frontman Brandon Flowers describes it. Using techniques dating back to the 70s and 80s, the Killers have produced the most vintage-esque record of our time.

From the lyrics to the electric sound, the record is undeniably inspired by classic 80s rock. In tracks such as “Lightning Fields” and “Fire in Bone,” we hear the classic booming beats and tastefully tacky synthesizer assimilated with the technological revolution of the 80s. It’s not just the sound, though. The lyrics are borderline cheesy and brimming with senseless romance—Sprinsteen-style. The band usually cloaks heartfelt metaphors in descriptions of neon signs and desert nights, but with this album, they’re upfront about their feelings.

It’s masterful — it incorporates the best aspects of their prior work with fresh ideas and iconic influences of decades prior. While it doesn’t stray far from their usual sound, this album displays the band’s elevated creativity and growth over the years.

On The Matter Of Story-Telling, Concept Albums, And Trauma

The Killers have always had a flair for heavy lyrics and having drawn out stories laced throughout their work. For example, their debut album, Hot Fuss, told the story of a tumultuous murder-mystery. Then Day and Age displayed the desert’s magical aspects and the hardships that tag along with its lifestyle. Sam’s Town captured the small-town experience and paid homage to teenage rebellion, artfully so. Their latest albums have encapsulated similar themes, but none with such strong concepts or storylines.

Imploding the Mirage tells a multitude of stories — of love, desperation, skipping town, conformity, trauma. It ties all these aspects into one spiritual, passionate album.

While “Blowback”‘s beautiful harmonies could easily distract its listener from the lyrics, it explores trauma, as well as the vulnerability and fear it causes in love. Lyrics such as “she’s sitting on a secret / she didn’t ask for, no girl ever does,” and “there’s nothing you can offer she hasn’t already tried,” tell a tough story. In them, we follow a woman haunted by past experiences and substance abuse, constantly reminded of her struggles by those who fail to understand her.

The title track “Imploding the Mirage” describes a polar-opposite, “ying-and-the-yang” couple managing to find love and escape conformity. It’s commentary on letting the facade of society fall and being your most authentic self, as well as the relief it brings. The entire album touches on love: the desperate, pining kind. It captures the feeling of wanting to take care of someone who’s tragically damaged by life. It describes the need to break free—of society, of their confining small town.

Flowers’ Real-Life Inspiration

A majority of the album is biographical, diving into the story of lead-singer Brandon Flowers and his wife, Tana, who grew up traumatized by the desert lifestyle. “Caution” pays special attention to her life story and how she’s been affected deeply by the vices and culture surrounding Las Vegas. Flowers sings “if I don’t get out / out of this town / I just might be the one who finally burns it down,” describing how he loathes the city and its effect on his wife, and how he wants to flee it for her sake.

“Imploding the Mirage” harps on the couple’s yin-and-yang style contrast, while “My God” details her extreme struggle with PTSD and the couple’s relief over recent years. He sings, “that weight that dragged you down / it has been made light.”

Over the years, but with this album especially, Flowers attempts to aid her with music. He’s done even more than that, though. After serious concerns over his wife’s PTSD and suicidal thoughts, Flowers made a tough choice for her sake. Though the band is based in Las Vegas, the frontman decided to move he and his family out of Vegas, to Park City.

Just as the album is devoted heavily to his wife, so are many of Flowers’ important life decisions.

The Creative Process

While the album was a long time in the coming, the amount of work the band put into it justified the wait. Flowers recounts months of work in the studio, all inspired by the album art created by Thomas Blackshear. And when I say inspired, I mean inspired. They hung the painting, entitled “Dance of the Wind and Storm,” on every studio wall. As they recorded the album, they sat constantly staring it down and siphoning inspiration. Flowers claimed they even changed it to their lock screens. His reasoning was that they needed it as their constant guide of creativity.

Desert settings inspired them greatly, but the West and its history as a whole inspired Flowers the most. The album’s cover artist, Blackshear, is known for his western landscapes and Native American portraits. Its spiritual essence is seemingly inspired by Native culture, though the band does not parody any aspects. From celestial sounds to lyrics filled with deep spirituality and love for the land, it most definitely fits into aspects of western culture.

The Killers took months perfecting their album to their standards and building creativity. After years of dissatisfaction with recent music and having two core members step away, the band has made something they’re proud of, and rightfully so. It’s unique to this generation, belonging to decades and cultures prior. It’s something of a comeback album, tying back to the band’s core message of standing in the face of adversity and hardship. And they certainly came back strong, reinventing themselves as a band with Imploding the Mirage.

Featured image via The Killers on Instagram 

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I cover the politics of pop culture—from celebrities scandals to the flaws in cancel culture. I'm always down for an album review, too. You can find me creating, whether I'm writing or painting.

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