In a world exclusive, Barry Nicolson guides us through The Killers frontman’s much-anticipated debut solo effort
Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas
The album opens on sparse ‘Let It Be’-esque piano chords that find Brandon waking up “In the rusted frame of a burned-out old De Ville”, before pulling himself together and “Stumbling down the boulevard/Crying, ‘Hosannah!’”, as the song’s momentum gently snowballs. We’re back in the American Mythic territory previously explored on ‘Sam’s Town’, but instead of “Your poor, your tired, your huddled masses”, this gaudy neon corner of Nevada wants “Your dreamers, your harlots and your sins”.
Only The Young
‘Flamingo’ is an album on which synths dominate and guitars are used sparingly. ‘Only The Young’ starts off as a bleepy, minimalist youth-hymn that bears all the electronic hallmarks of producer Stuart Price, but is lifted midway through by a bright beam of slide guitar and Brandon’s OTT falsetto.
That Brandon is a heart-on-sleeve sentimentalist is hardly a revelation, and, while it’s Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis who doubles him seductively on the chorus, it’s impossible not to interpret this song as a paean to his wife Tana.
Jilted Lovers And Broken Hearts
Brandon’s infatuation with The Boss manifests itself on this song – the bellow and bluster is reminiscent of latter-day Springsteen. Again, gambling terminology – the rolling of dice, the showing of cards, Brandon’s promise that “You’re gonna wish you could go back and fold” abounds, cementing the Vegas-ness.
Playing With Fire
The album’s longest – and strangest – track shares the same DNA as ‘Tranquilize’, The Killers’ 2007 collaboration with Lou Reed; a funereal minor-key march punctuated by cruel squeals of guitar and apocalyptic visions of massing angels and demons. There’s plenty of religious references to chew over, but it’s darker and more malevolent than you’d expect.
Was It Something I Said?
This breezy, primary-coloured depiction of the fall-out from an abortive Vegas wedding feels a little throwaway, but taken on its own merits it’s good fun. Un-flashy but blessed with a memorable chorus, it marks a return to the storytelling songwriting of The Killers’ 2004 debut LP ‘Hot Fuss’.
To Brandon-haters, this song will be the equivalent of finding a Nazi arms cache buried in the woods; big, unabashedly ’80s synth riffs, a naggingly catchy “oh-oh” vocal hook and, deep in the mix, the faintest hint of castanets.
An odd choice to herald Brandon’s solo career; the album’s lead single’s shifting piano chords and reverb-y sonics are epic, but it takes a few listens to really draw you in.
On The Floor
‘Flamingo’’s most overtly religious song, both in its lyrical theme of redemption and the gospel choir it employs for that extra little climactic oomph.
A sparky piano-led pop song that initially sounds like Brandon doling out life lessons to his two young kids – “Take your medicine and crawl before you walk/Think it through before you open your mouth to talk” – but is actually about Brandon himself. “It’s gonna be alright, you’re a performer” he reassures himself, “Just take your time, but not too much time”. A subtle reference to The Killers’ ongoing hiatus, perhaps…?
This article originally appeared in the August 7 issue of NME.