Oct 18, 2010 Web Exclusive
Brandon Flowers gets a bad rap, and often rightfully so. His band, The Killers, seems to vacillate among musical genres on whims. The band developed a huge following via catchy Duran Duran-esque songs before severely changing direction, channeling a beloved American icon in Bruce Springsteen, whose background and ideals couldn't have seemed further removed from those of a bunch of New Wave-obsessed kids from Las Vegas. But any backlash was short-lived as the band rose to newer heights on the back of Day & Age, its third album and return to form, with songs about spacemen, human/dancers, and neon tigers, all while continuing to fill stadiums with a consistency that belies the merits of the wobbly-voiced Flowers (listen to Live from The Royal Albert Hall). It's no wonder that many have dubbed Flowers' music derivative, disposable, and ultimately dispensable. But it's like the band relies on all the crap given to them by critics in justifying espousing the attitude of an underdog, when they're really in fact the people's champion. And critics—people like me—love to throw shit at Flowers.
That said, Flamingo is actually better than you'd have any right to expect. The first four songs on Flowers' solo debut are, well, killers. Evoking '80s pomp-and-bombast and arena-ready choruses, the album's opening tracks are in fact stunningly enjoyable bits of melodic bliss. Huge choruses fill "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas." "Only the Young" is an ethereal, electronics-accented prayer with slide guitar and redemptive conclusion. "Hard Enough" is a simply beautiful ballad duet with Jenny Lewis. And "Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts" might very well by the best melody Flowers has ever written. But here's the rub. As with Flowers' other efforts, things get tiring over 40 minutes, punctuated by some missteps that are so glaring and off-putting that they color one's perception of the whole piece of work. "Playing With Fire" is slow and moody with an aggressively irritating falsetto chorus; the song is ultimately better equipped to be sung by Robert Smith than the sequin- and vest-loving fashionista Flowers. "Crossfire," while another hit in popular opinion for Flowers, boasts such a pompous chorus, overt heaven and hell metaphor, and sincere yearning that it's hard to find any redeeming qualities. But this is what you get with Flowers. You have to take the good with the bad. It's probably the case that the good is better than you remember it and the bad is worse. Unfortunately, for someone like me, this means that the CD tends to get filed away. But, at least with Flamingo, it's better than you'd want to believe. (www.brandonflowersmusic.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 7/10