Brandon Flowers - Flamingo
With The Killers currently staring at a musical chasm of uncharted dimensions, it seems that there’s no time like the present for Mr Brandon Flowers to caulk his wagon and float it across the wild Sam’s Town river he's warned us about. The former front man is heading on his way to his hometown of Las Vegas; a city built for the confectionary of the senses, and one that Flowers’ solo debut presents as a neon stick of rock, engraved with all of his signature vocal and lyrical iridescence. In many respects you can think of Flamingo as Brandon Flowers’ very own sight-seeing tour of the so-called ‘Sin City’, with each track marking the bus stops of his memories along the way. So, with the Las Vegas Tourist Board most probably celebrating the release of this record, and the fruit machines-a-calling, will it be flush or bust for Flamingo?
With all the talk of lady luck and sinners in opener ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’, you start to wonder whether it might perhaps be a good idea for Mr Flowers to start attending a Gamblers Anonymous group. It’s then on further listens that you realise the track, and indeed Flamingo as a whole, is more of a homage to Las Vegas by a devoted lover, and not by addict. The track’s gentle, yet charismatic serenade of the city fuses a pop melody with a new-wave undertone, leading into an advisory crescendo of “didn’t nobody tell you, the house will always win”. It even includes what seems to be a shake of Christmas sleigh bells, which do their best to add a fairytale edge to the relative harshness of the background guitars.
‘Only The Young’ leads on from this enchanted tone and begins with the sort of familiar synthed Killers chords that dominated Hot Fuss. That though, are where the similarities end. Flowers’ enigmatic vocals manage to guide your ears away from the backdrop, effortlessly transforming the reverberation into an emotive reflection, musing “only the young can break away, break away, lost when the wind blows on your own”. The same vocal-focus is also evident in ‘Playing With Fire’, a track that features Las Vegas-born singer-songwriter and actress Jenny Lewis, who gives a candy-cane twist to this otherwise sombre and somewhat down-trodden record.
It’s not until ‘Was It Something I Said?’ and ‘Magdalena’ comes on that you discover where all of the Killers’ beats have been hiding. As with ‘Jilted Lovers And Broken Hearts’, they launch into a series of power-anthem-wannabee hooks that don't quite manage to fill their big boots, attempting to surge through Flamingo with more energy than a gambler on a winning streak. Instead, it seems that they've been dealt a meagre hand. Their half-measured injections of passion seem not quite enough to add another dimension to what prove to be less-enthusiastic 2D tracks. Then debut single 'Crossfire' introduces itself, and when it does it acknowledges that this is where Brandon Flowers proudly places his hand on his heart and rides the new-wave of pop with as much enthusiasm as before, but with a firm determination to be self- and not co-dependent. It, along with 'On The Floor', serves as a true ode to Vegas and is perhaps from where Flowers should have displaced Flamingo's energetic focus, ending on a suspended note that filters into upbeat pop ender ‘Swallow It’.
Perhaps the end is where Flowers should have begun. There seems to be a lack of Killer-esque pure oomph in Flamingo, cancelling out the otherwise perfected purity of his vocals and leaving it feeling, dare I say it, a bit limp in places. Although it would've been naive to expect the same anthemic gusto heard in Hot Fuss or Sam's Town, Flowers' emotional response to Las Vegas could be better served by a bit more musical drama than what's on offer here.