Sunday, September 26, 2010
Album Review: Brandon Flowers - Flamingo (3.5/5)
The Killers already made a Las Vegas-themed album (Sam's Town), but that hasn't stopped its frontman Brandon Flowers from mining the concept again for his solo debut. Flamingo, named after the famed casino built by Busgy Malone (currently the oldest on the Las Vegas strip), even more blatantly seeks to posit Vegas as the capital of the wild west, a place where troubled souls bet not just their pocketbooks but their souls.
Chirping crickets begin "Welcome to Las Vegas," the heavy-handed opening track evokes more Vegas cliches than I thought possible, depicting a den of sin attracting people with grand dreams they can't achieve ("didn't nobody tell you, the house will always win"). The bombastic production lays on the guitar, piano and synths quite thickly, with a hint of western influence. It's fine, although overblown. I much prefer the warm second track, "Only the Young," one of my favorite songs on the album, drenched with atmospheric synths and a mild but propelling beat. Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis lends a guest vocal on "Hard Enough," whose rough-around-the-edges production contrasts nicely with the smoother previous track.
Vegas references flow freely on "Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts," which sounds quite like anything the Killers would do, a fiery guitar-driven rock song with a strong pop hook. "why don't you roll your dice, show your cards..." etc." Flamingo was co-produced by Stuart Price, who helmed the Killers last album, Day & Age, by Daniel Lanois, frequent U2 collaborator. The combination of Stuart's smooth electronic production and Lanois' landscape-evoking western sounds come together nicely on the moody "Playing with Fire," the most country-sounding song on the album.
The album drags a bit in the middle with "Was It Something I Said," which turns to the early '80s for its upbeat pop sound and "Magdalena," a cookie-cutter guitar anthem. The rolling melody of hit single "Crossfire" is a welcome diversion before "On the Floor" and "Swallow It" close the album on a weak note. All subtlety is lost on the former, which brings in a gospel choir to hit us over the head in letting us know the song is about redemption. The latter strives to be a bit quirky, but just doesn't interest me. I do like a few of the bonus tracks. "Jacksonville" has a really cooling bass keyboard growl effect, and "I Came Here to Get Over You" has a great guitar and bass-driven melody.
I enjoy this album, although I find it a bit disappointing that Flowers didn't attempt something different from what he's been doing the last 6 years with his band. The Killers does this kind of stuff just fine, so it feels like a missed opportunity that Flowers aims for such a similar sound and didn't experiment more. As much as I like Stuart Price, that he produced the band's last album further reinforces this, as does the presence of Lanois, since The Killers, like Coldplay, often chase a U2-like grandeur in their music. Still, it's packed with a few great pop songs that should make good singles in the months to come.
Best: Only the Young, Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts, Playing with Fire, Crossfire