Album: Brandon Flowers, Flamingo (Vertigo / Mercury)
Killer flees to Las Vegas for a solo roll of the dice
Sunday 05 September 2010
As solo projects go, Brandon Flowers' is one acorn that landed very close to the tree.
The songs on the singer's debut were intended for a new Killers album before the band decided to take a hiatus, but any rumours of a permanent split are reduced by the facts that it was recorded in the Killers' own Battle Born studio, and that Ronnie Vanucci plays drums on some tracks.
Flamingo is not a reference to the feathered epaulettes for which Brandon has a penchant, but the casino (and road) in Flowers' hometown of Las Vegas. The cover shows Flowers contemplating his cuffs in a luxurious but dated hotel room high above the strip: everything's gold, but the clock radio pegs the year as somewhere circa 1974.
It encapsulates one of the dominant themes: a yearning for the old certainties against a rapacious and ruthless world. Vegas is where American capitalism is seen at its most naked and extreme, and opener "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" proposes a Nevada version of the engraving on the Statue of Liberty, "Give us your dreamers, your harlots and your sin", with the rueful pay-off "Did nobody tell you? The house will always win..."
No chances were taken with the commercial viability of the sound, and three trusty big-hitter producers have been brought in: Stuart Price (Madonna et al), Daniel Lanois (U2 et al) and Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam et al). The result is an album which has the epic quality you'd expect from the second and third, and the electronic fairy dust you'd expect from the first.
Flowers, a nice Mormon boy, has always been a fish out of water in the context of rock'n'roll's amoral hedonism, and he's at his best when he allows this to inform his songwriting. It also lends him a touching naivety: "Only the Young", with the line "Redemption, keep my covers clean tonight", might mischievously be read as rock's first anti-masturbation prayer.
Essentially, Flowers is an optimist, though the line "Please don't offer me your modern methods" ("Magdalena") encapsulates the feeling he's groping after. And it's one first expressed by the Young Rascals back in 1967: how can I be sure, in a world that's constantly changing?
Next week in Culture Club: Brandon Flowers' 'Flamingo'
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