Brandon Flowers Brandon FlowersFlamingo
If your band has decided to take a vacation and you have an arsenal of new compositions on your night stand, why should you wait to release them? That must have been the thinking of Brandon Flowers (whose ego is getting dangerously close to the size of his idol Bono’s) when it came to his first solo album. Keeping in mind the career of a stadium band like The Killers, which has progressively tried to accentuate its American identity as much as possible so that nobody will mistakenly stick it in the British indie sack (this is what happened the first time that people listened to “Hot Fuss” without bothering to check into the band’s biographies), Flowers’ “Flamingo” takes pleasure, like the band’s previous albums, in a fictional parallel papier-mâché reality, lit by epilepsy-inducing neon lights, in the style of such an extremely American place as Las Vegas (which also happens to be Flowers’ birthplace). He already did something similar with his fellow band members on “Sam’s Town” , in which they recovered Springsteen as an unarguable point of reference for American authenticity. In “Flamingo” however, Flowers takes it a step further, filling the album with slide guitars and half tempos that have a cheap country flavour—especially in the versions of “On the Floor” and “The Clock Was Tickin’”, both present on the special CD edition. Is this The Killers come down in the world, carried away by the AOR vein and sleep-inducing new wave, while chewing a lot of tobacco? That seems to be the general idea - why kid ourselves?
As someone who knows the Springsteen universe well, Flowers called Brendan O’Brien , the one responsible for the second youth in the media the Boss has been experiencing since “The Rising”, to produce this album, along with Daniel Lanois, a name linked since the 80’s to U2 Messianic demagogy—just listen to “Playing with Fire”. Stuart Price is the third figure in this discord, but surprisingly he passes unnoticed, relegated to the inaudible in a handful of house blend synthetic melodies of the kind that he has already got us used to, like “Only the Young”, which is among the most bearable that we can find on the album. A nice strong second single, with which the Mormon will soon be trying to climb the charts.
Flowers hasn’t had his best year. On one hand, there is the existentialist retreat of his fellow band members, and on the other hand, the death of his mother in February from a brain tumour. Our star, drowning his sorrows, went seeking his place in the world along endless highways through the Mojave desert –like Nomi Malone– and, killing time shut up in solitary hotels off the highway, he found the perfect moment for polishing his already-habitual doctrinal message in favour of the Catholic faith. “Crossfire”, although it invites you to lift up your arms as if there were no tomorrow, is still the ideal soundtrack for a high-tech preacher, and to render homage to the greatness of a city that is the maximum expression of the artificial. This is the point where we find “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas”, his own particular reclaiming of Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (almost coinciding with the brand-new special edition of the album that is about to be released), “Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts” (the only song worthy of being performed with his band or, if that isn’t possible, by Tom Petty – we could say the same thing about “Magdalena” and its castanets), and also “Was It Something I Said”, which is like recreating a wedding chapel presided over by Elvis under the parameters of new wave.
“Flamingo” is missing a hook, and a lower dose of sappiness. The country air of “Hard Enough”, the duet he does with Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley, beyond the melodramatic boy-girl cliché, has little chance of making any headway with followers of The Killers, and a greater risk in the strictly musical sense. I still remember my first The Killers concert in Barcelona’s Razzmatazz club, which was a sauna –the air-conditioning wasn’t working– and the moment when, carried away by the alcoholic whirlwind, the walls almost caved in to the first beats of “Somebody Told Me”. If we’re going to take a walk down Memory Lane, I also still remember the last concert I saw them in, when they were defending what couldn’t be defended—which is to say, “Day & Age”– and their natural audience consisted of tacky tough guys and pseudo-intellectuals with glasses hugging each other and singing along at the top of their lungs to (of course) “Human”. For all of these reasons, although I could go off on a tangent and shut some people up once and for all (including myself), it pains me deeply that Flowers didn’t take advantage of the occasion to put out an album that was at the very least as good as his band’s first two albums. Sergio del Amo
Brandon Flowers - Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts