Brandon Flowers – Flamingo
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Killers frontman Brandon Flowers’ debut solo album. I expected that it may be a way for him to get his wildest ideas out of his system before returning to his successful pop-rock roots. The Killers are the craftsmen of fine, if unspecial songs, containing the finest radio hooks. However, this is only really true of half of their songs. They usually put out half a good album with every release. However, Flowers’ solo album is much more textured, much more polished, and much better than anything he’s done before.
The album opens with ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’, which starts things off nicely. It has the required amount of gambling references, and doesn’t veer too far from Flowers’ previous work. ‘Only the Young’ is an 80s throwback grown-up pop song, not the usual schmaltz, but something worthwhile, and a step away from the Brendan O’Brien produced sheen of the opener.
That’s probably what makes this album great. We always knew Flowers was capable of a good tune, but his songcraft is so much better when combined with the production values of usual Killers helmer Stuart Price, well-travelled Brendan O’Brien, and most importantly Daniel Lanois. Lanois is often the unsung one of the early U2 production team. Brian Eno seems to get most of the credit, but Lanois knows his way around an anthem. (He’s also the producer of Neil Young’s upcoming record, so expect genius galore there too).
The five tracks Lanois is involved in are the album’s finest pieces. ‘Hard Enough’ is a gorgeous duet with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, and a million times better than anything on her current Jenny and Jonny record. ‘Playing With Fire’ is a softer, accomplished tune, and once again sounds like a smooth 80s throwback. ‘Was it Something I Said?’ has dancefloor written all over it, and is yet another highlight. It just asks the question: why wasn’t the whole album written and produced by Daniel Lanois? Gorgeous.
‘Magdalena’ and ‘Crossfire’ are both O’Brien tracks, and you can tell. They both have that radio sheen you’d come to expect from Brendan O’Brien, particularly lead single ‘Crossfire’, which has greatly grown on me despite initial doubts. ‘On the Floor’ is a nice gentle song, but having heard the iTunes preorder bonus cut of the song, it seems like the version on the main tracklisting was the wrong choice.
Closing song ‘Swallow It’ has a Pixies-esque bridge, and unfortunately moves Flowers too far out of his comfort zone. The bonus songs on the Deluxe Edition fare a bit better. ‘The Clock Was Tickin’ is a clever old-school country-rock song, and could be a worthy avenue for later Flowers material. ‘Jacksonville’ could be an off-cut of Duran Duran’s recent output, and ‘I Came Here To Get Over You’ should definitely have been included with the regular release.
The album’s highpoint, however, is another Lanois co-write, produced track. ‘Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts’ is the first song where Brandon Flowers actually steps up to the Bruce Springsteen mark. There have been many comparisons to the Boss in the past, but until know, they were undeserved. Forget about the new Gaslight Anthem album, Flamingo is the best E Street album of the year. (That said, the earlier Gaslight albums are a million times better than the new one)
The best thing Flowers has done to date. Definitely worthy of your attention. Even if you’re the most ardent Killers denier.