Album review: Brandon Flowers – Flamingo (Vertigo)

Brandon shows his true showman colours on a drivetime tribute to Vegas that steers for the MOR

Because of the stiff wearing of ‘flamboyant’ clothes, the preferring of [a]Pet Shop Boys[/a] singles to Smiths B-sides, the businesslike emoting, the singing of straight (and ’tache-faced) versions of [a]Dire Straits[/a]’ ‘Romeo And Juliet’ and the covering of ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ (“If you don’t like this song, there’s something wrong with you!” he said onstage in Hollywood last week), ‘cool’ people have a problem with [a]Brandon Flowers[/a]. On this evidence, you suspect that if all those expertly written choruses of the past had been delivered under his own name rather than the more acceptable indie-band Killers umbrella, a LOT less of ’em would have felt comfortable buying his music. Because on this evidence, Brandon ain’t a ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ guy at all.

‘Flamingo’ is a soft-rock, drivetime radio album that opens with tumbling pianos that sound like a pisstake of ‘Thunder Road’ (in other words, like [a]Meat Loaf[/a]) and Brandon bellowing “WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAAAAAAAS VEGAS!” A soft-rock, drivetime radio album that finds Brandon dealing in the most clichéd gambling imagery imaginable (“Roll the dice!”, “Show your cards!” goes ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts’), or doing the Americana dirty-ol’-road storytellin’ thang (‘Was It Something I Said’). On ‘Magdalena’ he bellows histrionically about “60 miles of sacred road” and “prodigal sons”, while a multitracked Brandon does his best Bono “oohh-oh”s in the background. And then he’s going on about redemption (‘On The Floor’) with the aid of a gospel choir. If all this sounds like a spectacle on paper, then… well, that’s the problem. This album sounds like an ‘on paper’ album. In other words, there are loads of theoretically big, bold, stupid ideas here, but when actually recorded, rather than sounding ridiculous, they just sound like insipid pea soup. And if you’re going to roar loudly about how you’ve “got a burning belief in salvation and love” (‘Playing With Fire’), you need to not sound like insipid pea soup.

Maybe he’s timed it just right: maybe a world that can’t seem to get enough of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ will eat this schmaltz up with a spoon. In fact, sonically, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ is exactly where this album is at: Brandon’s solo journey has led him to [a]Journey[/a]. Many people who have heard ‘Flamingo’ have said it sounds a lot like a Killers album. Wrong. It is more that [a]The Killers[/a]’ albums sounded like [a]Brandon Flowers[/a] solo albums, with a bit of indie guitar on top to snare those Reading & Leeds headline slots. That trick worked. But this trick is unlikely to do anything except have him running back to Ronnie, Dave and Mark in search of the vaguest of edges.

Hamish MacBain

Click here to get your copy of Brandon Flowers’ ‘Flamingo’ from Rough Trade Shops.