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Brandon Flowers – Flamingo

[CD, Vertigo]

As the front man of The Killers, Brandon Flowers is used to producing grand anthemic songs suited to the huge arenas and massive festivals they are accustomed to playing. After touring the world and playing to millions of adoring fans, Flowers already had the songs for the next Killers album written when the band decided to take an extended break. With the songs ready to record, Flowers signed up Daniel Lanois (U2), Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam) and Stuart Price (Madonna) to produce Flamingo, which became his debut solo album. With producers of this calibre, Flowers was taking no chances and the result bears more than a passing resemblance to an album recorded by the full band.

The theme for his first album is Flowers’ home town of Las Vegas with images of hotel rooms, showgirls and neon signs in the gaudy instantly recognisable Vegas style that helped put it on the international map as a mecca of decadent recreation in all its incarnations. Flamingo sees Flowers incorporate references to and tales of Las Vegas life from the draw of the bright neon lights to the inevitable gambling and on to its less appealing darker side of drugs and broken relationships. Another recurrent theme is that of religion, something Flowers references throughout.

In the style of The Killers biggest hits a number of the tracks on this album start gently and build to the grandiose level of the arm waving sing-a-longs often observed during Killers live sets. With consistent yet generally subtle country undertones throughout, Price’s electronic music credentials and Flowers’ own keyboard skills often add an electronic undercurrent to a number of tracks but the dominant sound is that of guitar rock as you might expect with O’Brien and Lanois at the helm.

As Flowers is the front man of one of the world’s biggest bands of the moment with a distinctive voice, drawing similarities with the Killers’ albums is inevitable and this is exacerbated by the fact that the album consists of tracks originally destined to be the band’s next album. The subtle country undertones work well, particularly on “Hard Enough”, a duet with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, which sees Flower’s voice seem smoother and warmer than usual. “Playing with Fire” sees Flowers playing up the country elements of the album by doing his best Johnny Cash impression while “Was It Something I Said?” plays homage to another American legend, Bruce Springsteen. Full of jangly guitar, “Magdalena” is a jaunty sing-along of a track with religious references abound while “Crossfire” – the first single from the album – is a mellower affair with guitar and prominent bass guitar that builds for thunderous choruses that will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with The Killers previous hit singles. “Crossfire” is perhaps not the strongest track on the album but it is not a huge departure from Flowers’ day job for those interested in his first solo effort.

The tracks that seem instantly recognisable as Killers tracks to the casual observer are “Only the Young”, “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts” and “Magdalena” in all their soaring greatness. Perhaps one of the slightly more unusual tracks on Flamingo is “On the Floor”, a rousing gospel ballad with a drifting orchestral arrangement, a slow military beat and a guitar backing reminiscent of U2’s Edge. More unusual still is “Swallow It” with its 80s pop roots and some of the weakest and most clichéd lyrics on the album.

[audio:|titles=Brandon Flowers – Crossfire]

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Flamingo is out now on Vertigo.
“Crossfire”, the first single from the album, is also out now on Vertigo.

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