Album: Brandon Flowers, Flamingo (Vertigo)
Friday 03 September 2010
It's blindingly obvious, from first hearing, that the material on Brandon Flowers's solo debut was originally intended for the next Killers album.
There's no sense, as one hopes with solo projects, that we're privy to some hitherto repressed musical urges, or, if we're really lucky, the kind of intimately personal, confessional lyrics that might transform the public image of the star in question. Flowers, clearly a sharp operator, has weighed up the odds between revelation and continuation, and decided that the latter is the more reliably profitable route to take.
The gambling analogy is apt, as Flamingo is replete with such images, Flowers mining his hometown's reputation for much of the album's metaphors and narratives. With keyboards and guitars marshalled in the manner of Queen, "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" opens the album with a bombastic tribute to the town's "boulevard of neon-encrusted temples", offering his own take on the Statue of Liberty inscription: "Give us your dreamers, your harlots and your sins/ Las Vegas/ Didn't nobody tell you/ Odds will always win". A little later, "Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts" is awash in gambling terminology – rolling your dice, showing your cards, doubling down, folding your hand, etc – while Flowers's exultant delivery and the song's ebullient dynamic strain manfully to fulfil the Springsteen expectations of the song title, as if those Vegas boulevards were jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.
Brendan O'Brien's presence alongside Stuart Price in the production booth has understandably done little to diminish Flowers's Springsteen influence, which is noticeable in small ways throughout the album, notably in the breathless urgency of his duet with Jenny Lewis on "Hard Enough". But the additional input of Daniel Lanois, one presumes, may be responsible for the increased attention to textural detail on some songs, such as the gradually looming pad and choir, which gives the slow, crepuscular "On the Floor" the tone of a country gospel number, its wretched protagonist kneeling "here on the floor, facing the things I've done," pleading for forgiveness among the roaches and the rats.
That's one of the more intriguing pieces here, along with "Magdalena", a fable of the US southwest ("the land of old Sonora"), and the similarly Calexico-like "Playing with Fire", an appropriately slow-burning, slide-guitar-streaked song that finds Flowers maintaining that "this church of mine may not be recognised by steeple/ but that does not mean that I will walk without a god". And as it reaches a feverish climax of scratchy guitar, it seems all the more apt that the notion of god and redemption he's singing about seems to follow the region's Native American beliefs of being inextricably bound up with the land.
Elsewhere, sadly, things are less interesting: tracks like the single "Crossfire" and especially "Was It Something I Said?" are generic pop-rock pablum of the dullest kind, full of bogus brio straining for significance. But at least there's nothing here quite as annoyingly gauche as "Human", for which we should be thankful.
DOWNLOAD THIS Playing with Fire; On the Floor; Magdalena; Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts
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