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Flamingo by Brandon Flowers (A Review)

Posted by jeromefaraday on September 15, 2010

When indie-rock group The Killers decided to take a hiatus after constant touring (who can blame them?), their frontman Brandon Flowers, who still had a lot of great ideas, soldiered on. His resulting solo album, Flamingo, was released in the USA on September 14th.

There’s no doubt that this album was originally conceived in the Killers mold. As a whole, Flamingo isn’t a radical musical departure from anything the Killers have done in the past. Flowers’ great vocal range is on display and the tunes are often driven by keyboard hooks.

However, Flowers lets his roots show in far less subtle ways than the average Killers song. Several songs sound like they could’ve appeared on U2’s Unforgettable Fire or Joshua Tree albums. And, “Swallow It,” Flamingo’s second single, has a Jeff Lynne/ELO feel. Perhaps the most interesting musical digression is the twang that hangs out in the background of “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” and “Hard Enough” and comes to the forefront on “Playing With Fire,” “The Clock Was Tickin’” and, with some added Gospel, “On the Floor.” And, not surprising given his general talents, Flowers, in his own way, does a fine job with country (or alt-country).

Lyrically, Flowers embraces two major themes: God and Vegas. The subtle religious references in Day and Age, the most recent Killers album, have morphed into outright piety on Flamingo (Flowers is a traditional Mormon/family man). The biblical allusions are plentiful, but so are the themes of struggle and redemption. While God and Vegas may not sound like a winning (or possible) combination, I think in a way Flowers has hit on an apt metaphor for the USA: the intermingling of decadence and spiritual yearning.

Flowers’ album is surprisingly positive and affirming. It follows the recent trend of Killers music from gritty indie rock (e.g. Jenny Was A Friend of Mine, Uncle Jonny) to a more slick, upbeat style. Lyrically, this is especially evident in the bonus tracks.

For example, the major premise of “The Clock Was Tickin’” is the affirmation of life. After a somewhat humorous look at life’s stresses, Flowers sings of the death of Jackie, the wife of the song’s protagonist and adds, “The arguments and fights and money troubles seem so worthless as the kids throw yellow roses on her grave.” Simple but eloquent. The final bonus track, “Right Behind You,” strikes a hopeful note when Flowers sings, I’m right behind you, In the light of hope. I’ll be beside you, On that dusty road.”

Overall, the album is amazing and lives up to the Killers pedigree that Flowers obviously had a big hand in creating. The only thing missing is Dave Keuning’s gritty guitar, which, on Killers albums is a nice contrast with Flowers’ sweet voice. Along these lines, sometimes the tracks on Flamingo seem a tad too mellow. But, they still have an incredible energy. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves the Killers or is interested in hopeful, thoughtful lyrics in a post-punk, 80’s style.

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