Imploding the Mirage
As The Killers began work on their sixth full-length, Brandon Flowers had a single visual in mind: the album’s eventual cover art, illustrator Thomas Blackshear’s Dance of the Wind and Storm. “We wanted to make sure that the songs fit underneath the banner of what that image was saying,” Flowers tells Apple Music of the drawing, which he hung on the wall of the studio. “Blackshear typically does Western landscapes, or he does spiritual art. But on this particular one he combined them, and that's exactly what I wanted to capture. Songs that didn't fit, they had to get cut. We’d never done anything like that, but it ended up being a real beacon for us.”
As intended, Imploding the Mirage evokes the scale and natural majesty of the American West, like The E Street Band playing Monument Valley. And at its heart are a series of synth-lined, often Springsteenian tales of love and salvation, inspired by Flowers’ recent move from Las Vegas to Utah—and the effect it had on his wife’s mental health. (“Las Vegas is a tainted and haunted place,” he says. “Talk about a clean slate.”) It’s the band’s first LP without founding guitarist Dave Keuning, whose departure made space for a list of collaborators that includes k.d. lang, Weyes Blood, The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel, Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, and Lindsey Buckingham. It’s also meant to be a companion to 2017’s unabashedly grand Wonderful Wonderful. “I'm very interested in the optimistic side of things,” Flowers says. “I was brought up to have that kind of a perspective, and I think you hear it in the songs: It feels triumphant, like there are angels present.” Here, Flowers details a few of its key tracks.
My Own Soul’s Warning “It's strange to write a song about repentance. It's not a typical subject in a pop or a rock song. And I felt like, to be able to go into that territory and write something that was meaningful to myself and that felt like it was going to transcend and resonate with a lot of people in a stadium or inside their headphones—that’s kind of the Holy Grail. It's just one of those songs for me.”
Blowback “The producer of the record, Shawn Everett, he's producing the new War on Drugs, and he produced the last one. I think Adam [Granduciel] and I share a lot of the same musical landmarks and touchstones—we just follow along through our own experiences, usually Las Vegas. It just kind of happened pretty organically.”
Dying Breed “Shawn, he’s a wizard in the studio, kind of a mad scientist. And he just will throw things at a song that you were just not envisioning at all. The song was already good, and then Shawn disappeared into a B room for about an hour and came back all excited, and played us that [Can and Neu!] loop over the song. And it was like, ‘Yeah.’ It's frustrating that it wasn't our loop in the beginning, but then we just embraced it and got permission. And when Ronnie [Vannucci, drummer] and the full band come in halfway through the song, it just goes to this other level. Now I love that song.”
Caution “Sometimes they talk. That’s what you hear about, when you hear about great guitar solos—how they speak, how they’re singable. And, man, Lindsey just delivered in a big way, and I love that. I love that you can kind of memorize that solo and sing along.”
Imploding the Mirage “In [1977’s] ‘Solsbury Hill,’ Peter Gabriel talks about walking out of the machinery—and I think he's talking about Genesis. It’s kind of like that. It's like getting out from underneath the weight of what it is to be in The Killers and what is expected of you, and just doing what you love. That's a huge part of it, for sure. I mean, I can't pretend like everything's just hunky-dory and that we're firing on all cylinders. It's just not. I'm obviously using the imagery of Las Vegas—we implode things, we have a casino called The Mirage—and just the idea of this facade that we can put on and how stressful that can be. I think getting rid of it and replacing it with what's real can be such a relief and can be something that we could all strive to do.”