Written by Andrew Wyzan
Battle Born, The Killers' fourth album over a decade-spanning career, is a spiritual successor to their sophomore album Sam's Town in that it is a love letter to the band's home state of Nevada. While Sam's Town limited its scope to the trials and tribulations of Las Vegas, Battle Born goes widescreen in its portrayal of growing up in the desert, searching for love and purpose amongst miles of nothingness. Check out our top ten lyrics from the LP, each offering a different perspective on the past, present and future of an America that lead singer Brandon Flowers identifies with fondly.
10) "Cut from the cloth of a flag that bears the name 'Battle Born.'" -- "Flesh and Bone"
The state flag of Nevada, Flowers' home state, bears the epigraph "Battle Born", having been accepted into the union during the American Civil War. He takes great pride in being from Nevada in the same way that Southern states still feel pride for the Confederacy, and begins a theme that runs throughout the album, comparing life to a never-ending battle.
9) "A blue-eyed girl playing in the sand / I'd been on her trail for a little while / but that was the night that she broke down and held my hand." -- "Runaways"
Flowers had pursued a girl for several days, perhaps weeks. Either he was courting her and she rebuked his efforts or she just didn't notice him. Anyone who's had a schoolyard crush can empathize with the innocence in Flowers' voice. Eventually his persistence won the day and she agreed to be with him, a heartwarming triumph in his early life.
8) "I swore on the head of our unborn child that I could take care of the three of us / But I got the tendency to slip when the nights get wild, it's in my blood." -- "Runaways"
Flowers wanted to do right by his wife and child, promising that he'd support them financially and paternalistically, but he proved to be unfaithful in keeping his promise. He then goes on to deflect blame for his actions, acting like there was nothing he could do to stop his infidelity because it's part of his character. He's not the first to make excuses for his actions - go to any AA meeting and you'll find similar stories.
7) "Your feelings are your own, now you keep them under lock and key / You got me driving through the streets for an answer to the mystery." -- "A Matter of Time"
This is Flowers' way of saying, "You wont talk to me anymore, so I don't know what's wrong." Flowers wants to know how to make his girl feel better, but its a puzzle he can't solve. It's a sharp agony, knowing that someone you love is drifting away from you and there's nothing you can do to stop it. The feelings we keep inside are secrets that even Sherlock Holmes couldn't detect.
6) "If you should find romance, go on and take that chance before the strategies begin... Deadlines and commitments, every morning, every evening they can suck you in." -- "Deadlines and Commitments"
A passionate sentiment: don't let life stop you from finding love, and don't put it off, because soon there won't be enough time for you to pursue love. It's not difficult to get caught up in a career or responsibilities to other people, and pretty soon your life becomes a service to others. Flowers is making a point that you should find your own happiness before you give it away unknowingly.
5) "You run for cover but you can't escape the second attack." -- "Miss Atomic Bomb"
Flowers is making an allusion to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki at the end of World War II. The reference serves to draw a parallel between the atomic bomb tests that were conducted in the Nevada desert in the 1940s and a relationship destroyed by two great mistakes. There's nothing more terrifying than hearing that air raid siren and knowing that in the next instant you'll be wiped from existence. That single moment must feel like a lifetime, much like how the fallout of a single mistake will play out in slow motion before your eyes.
4) "Life is short to say the least / we're in the belly of the beast." -- "Be Still"
Life is harsh like a wild animal and will swallow you up, but it's only temporary. This continues the theme of life being a never-ending battle, as Flowers dons his boxing gloves to teach the lesson that tooth-and-nail grit is the only way to respond to life's tribulations.
3) "Soon enough you'll be on your own, steady and straight / And if they drag you in the mud, it doesn't change what's in your blood." -- "Be Still"
Flowers is giving advice to his children. This lyric is his way of saying, "There will always be people who try and bring you down, but you'll be able to take it, because you're my son and I'll always be proud." He's battle born, which makes his progeny bred for battle like warriors of Sparta. Their weapon is their blood, and Flowers' support serves as their armor.
2) "Your star-spangled heart took a train for the coast." -- "Battle Born"
The patriotism and fire of revolution that filled the people of America is long gone, having been traded for the passivity that comes with relaxing on a beach, not a care in the world. This could also be a reference to Don McClean's "American Pie", which contains a similar phrase as a metaphor for death. True patriotism is dead according to Flowers, as long gone as the men and women who fought for their children's freedom.
1) "When they break your heart and when your soul begins to moan, remember what I said, boy, you was battle born." -- "Battle Born"
Flowers may be speaking to all of America in this song, and not just one person. The U.S. was born in battle, having fought for freedom in the Revolutionary War, so when times get tough, remember that fighting is in every American's blood and part of who we all are. It also brings the album full circle, repeating the phrase uttered in the opening track. Every American is battle-born, not just the citizens of Nevada, and, especially in the context of the present, it's the only way to face the future.
Check out all the lyrics and explanations for The Killers' Battle Born on Stereo IQ:
The Killers - Battle Born Lyrics
The Killers - Be Still Lyrics
The Killers - Deadlines and Commitments Lyrics
The Killers - Flesh And Bone Lyrics
The Killers - From Here On Out Lyrics
The Killers - Heart Of A Girl Lyrics
The Killers - Here With Me Lyrics
The Killers - A Matter of Time Lyrics
The Killers - Miss Atomic Bomb Lyrics
The Killers - The Rising Tide Lyrics
The Killers - Runaways Lyrics
The Killers - The Way It Was Lyrics