The band’s sixth LP disrupts none of its predetermined big-rock boundaries; it alienates no fans. It delivers a belting, fan-service single in “Caution” — to its credit, probably the group’s most incendiary track since 2012’s “Runaways.” And it leads off with another bread-and-butter heartland banger in “My Own Soul’s Warning,” an obvious choice to open the next round of bombastic live shows.
The rest is largely inconsequential, retreading the familiar blueprint they’ve used since Sam’s Town: vaguely western, Springsteen obsessive, exuding all the confidence — but little of the humility — earned by playing for 15,000 people. It’s not quite a caricature of what an average rock fan considers The Killers to be, but it’s close.
Still, Mirage is markedly superior to its uneven predecessor, 2017’s Wonderful, Wonderful, largely due to the presence of several guest artists. Lindsey Buckingham elevates “Caution” with a bold, shred-worthy solo, and k.d. lang swoops in to rescue the otherwise forgettable “Lightning Fields” with an ascendant verse.
But listeners who make it beyond “Fire In Bone,” a grating Talking Heads facsimile, are rewarded with the record’s sharpest collaboration — courtesy of acclaimed psych-folk singer Weyes Blood — on the crashing disco-rock climax “My God.” The Bowie-tastic lovers’ quarrel finds Brandon Flowers asserting in the chorus, “Don’t talk to me about forgiveness” — a rare line that doesn’t read as rock-star pontification across the 40-minute record. Weyes Blood commandeers the final verse, offering an ethereal reconciliation: “The weight has been lifted, we finally let go.”
Early and often, the album establishes its sense of place: riding through the dusty Nevada desert, feet up on the dash, just as a dry thunderstorm is bearing down. But as with all Killers’ releases, the theme doesn’t really define the project. It’s all about the singles — the titanic, confetti-cannon moments that will put asses in seats and keep one of the most successful rock bands of the last 20 years on the top line of most festival posters.
By those barometers, Mirage hits the mark. “Caution” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in April, breaking a record for the longest stint between chart-toppers. (Their last one was “When You Were Young” in 2006.) A supporting world tour is already in the works for 2021. And fans who appreciated the unrestrained maximalism of Battle Born and Day & Age will likely call this a return to form.
But those still awaiting the punchy post-punk Hot Fuss follow-up will wonder how the hell this band — one with virtually unlimited resources and no rigid identity to maintain — keeps revisiting the same tedious, chest-pounding formula. Remember, they released their greatest hits album seven years ago. The 90-minute live set is already locked in. They have nothing left to prove; this new record could’ve been anything.
Instead, they made more big songs for happy people. They are the mall, and Mirage is a new Cheesecake Factory.