Brandon Flowers, The Desired Effect - album review: Huge-sounding pop anthems with a spiritual side

The Killers singer has upped his game since the last album

Andy Gill
Friday 15 May 2015 12:37
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Brandon Flowers wondering why there is a broken piano behind him
Brandon Flowers wondering why there is a broken piano behind him

Having drawn on his hometown Las Vegas's mythic character for his solo debut, Flamingo, Killers frontman Brandon Flowers has upped his game for this follow-up, which asks bigger questions about desire, ambition, and morality, both in a personal and spiritual sense.

Elsewhere, the influence of producer Ariel Rechtshaid comes through in the application of electropop grooves to Flowers' tales of devotion and departure – nowhere more so than "I Can Change", which drafts in Neil Tennant to help out on a song built on Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy".

Rechtshaid has a canny ability to blend electropop with other modes, most impressively on another lovelorn-boy anthem, "Diggin' Up the Heart", where the synths are stapled to a rockabilly structure.

The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers

The result is a series of huge-sounding, stadium-ready pop anthems of undeniable charm, whether he's evoking the way that dissatisfaction with a humdrum existence can stain the rest of one's life ("Between Me and You"), admiring from afar ("Never Get You Right" and the borderline stalker-song "Lonely Town".

In an atmosphere of dissipated anomie, Flowers muses in "The Way It's Always Been" about the Second Coming. And following a cute, sardonic opening gambit ("She was raised a Protestant, I was raised by wolves/ Both of us saw dignity in pain"), the ensuing title-track bears down heavily on personal morality, Flowers asking, "Are you moving the party forward? Did the life you chose to lead have the desired effect?"

It's not the kind of query one usually encounters in an album of engaging anthemic pop, for which he deserves credit; but it's also a question that rich pop stars have greater leisure to contemplate than less fortunate souls.

Brandon Flowers, The Desired Effect is out 19 May.

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