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Album Review: Brandon Flowersâ€™ â€˜Flamingoâ€™ doubles down on Las Vegas, new wave
The Killers frontman explores Sin City in religious metaphors and dance-rock
If you’re gonna make an album shaming and praising Las Vegas in a milieu of styles inspired by your favorite new wave, pop and rock artists, then your album should sound like Brandon Flowers’.
“Flamingo,” the Killers singer’s first solo outing, isn’t just a tip of the hat toward U2 or the Cure. It encompasses Flowers’ idiosyncratic lyrics, stuffed with heavy-handed and –eyelidded gambling metaphors and stretched to connect to theology, sex, love and idolatry. It’s appropriate, coming from Vegas’ own son, born-and-raised-and-practicing Mormon, who now has the whole floor to himself to explore his concepts. It’s a continuation, too, of the Killers’ '80s dance-heavy “Day & Age.”
Of course, “Crossfire” has already been pushed out there as the set’s leading single – it’s a contained narrative, shifting between a warm bed to be had now and the bad weather to come later. It lingers on that jogging pace and crescendos without any embarrassment. A choir and Annie Lennox-loving synths create eddies around the redemptive “On the Floor,” Flowers’ closest attempt to a hymn, while opener “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” greets visitors as a mecca of triumphal sounds and sarcasm.
With the Edge as an obvious influencer, “Only the Young” is awash with guitars and muddled divinity and a noteable mix of bells, harmonies, drum machine and puny slide guitar to vamping out at the end, like a lost track on “Pop.” Pete Townshend and, appropriately, Neil Diamond come to mind on “Was It Something I Said?”, a cutesy tune stringing a young lover on through his insecurities with his beloved Valentina.
“Playing with Fire” is histrionic, and with its knowledge of that, proceeds into some fun but sad sonic directions; Flowers let’s that whiney inner-Robert Smith play with fire as a distorted guitar is imperfectly irritated with a pick in the background. I love how Flowers’ voice comfortably dips around the melody on the terribly titled but well-meaning “Swallow It,” further convincing me he should be involved in that Cars reunion rumor that’s been swirling around, just in case Queen doesn’t call. He's a "perfooormer."
He shows his cards on Jenny Lewis-enhanced “Hard Enough” but hides them again behind tracks like “Magdelena,” which just have far too much going on; “Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts” puts on a real Vegas-style rock show.
Overall, it’s a solid set brimming with personality, even if -- sometimes -- it’s not Flowers’ own. Sin City obviously has an effect on Flowers temperament, his writing and delivery, so it’s not like he can arrive on the other side pure of any other influences anyway.
"Flamingo" flies onto shelves today (Sept. 14).