So here it is: Brandon Flowers‘ solo debut. It’s an album that’s been pushed pretty heavily as a possible attempt to hold Killers fans over until their hiatus ends. So, what’s the verdict?
Killers, please come back.
Now. Like, right now if you can, before Flowers gets any more aspirations for future solo projects. Some of you may think I’m exaggerating here, but Flamingo is really the worst part of the Killers’ and Flowers’ songwriting, spread out over 40 minutes. It should have been called Sam’s Town II: Now Without The Hits!
So what exactly is wrong with it?
To put it simply, Flowers makes every wrong decision possible here, eliminating any sense of connection or deeper meaning he’s going for. This is a big problem since grand, lofty statements full of meaning seems to be all he wants to talk about. That’s right, Flowers has regressed back to his Springsteen worship/rip-off style of lyrics. You’ll hear a lot about devils, angels, lost loves, and other big fate-of-the-world myths. The communication of these ideas is far, far from the level of the Boss, sinking the album in cliches and dramatic lines that will make you roll your eyes. Once you break Flamingo down song-by-song though, it….doesn’t improve at all.
The album starts with “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas”, “Only The Young”, and “Hard Enough”. These tracks would be decent enough if you combined their best parts into one (they sound so similar that it’s possible), but as they stand, it makes for a terrible start. “Welcome to…” is an average assortment of piano and vocals that tries to be epic but falls short. For a man who’s from the city, Flowers sure loves playing up the stereotype with lines like “The house will always win.” He also throws in references to palm trees, black jack, neon lights, and Lady Luck. This does not sound like someone who’s lived in Las Vegas; it sounds like a tourist who wrote the song after a weekend visit. “Only The Young” is basically the same song as the first track with mild improvements in the melody. “Hard Enough” is disappointing due to its wasted potential. The wordless vocal intro is pretty peculiar, but it works. Then, of course, Flowers goes right back into his preaching speeches that pass for lyrics. Lines like “There was magic and fire in the night” are so overused they’ve got holes in them. The worst part, though, is how wasted Jenny Lewis’ guest appearance is. Instead of a true collaboration, Lewis is relegated to background vocals.
“Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts” is a little more upbeat with a driving drum and jangling guitar. The chorus is pretty solid but brought down by Flowers’ severity. The music itself has a throwaway, pop quality but it’s a nice change of pace. Too bad Flowers doesn’t follow along and show some humor. Instead, he drops lines like “Why did you roll your dice? Show your cards?” We get it. You’re from Las Vegas. They have gambling. Move on to another topic, please!
Of course, any momentum the music of “Jilted Lovers” creates is slammed head first into a ditch by the slogging “Playing With Fire”. Some lessons in songwriting for Mr. Flowers: 1. You shouldn’t have a two minute intro with just the same four-note guitar riff on different pitches without anything else happening. 2. Adding a country-ish chorus with reverberating single notes doesn’t sound like a good tribute. It sound desperate. 3. Again, you are not Springsteen, no matter how many gospel choirs you add.
After a couple of filler tracks that float out of your brain the instant they end, the chiming bells of “Crossfire” ring out as if to welcome a good song to the album. The verses have a simple melody but that works in its favor, stripping away some of the overly grand sensations. The lyrics aren’t much better, but the chorus is uplifting and built for arenas. Sure, it sounds like a Killers outtake, but it’s still worth listening to.
Flamingo wraps up with the horribly titled “Swallow It”. If you thought this sounds like something a immature teen would come up with, just wait until you hear how it’s used. “You bit off more, much more than you could chew/You could not swallow it/No baby you’re not ready, slow down.” How can Flowers have thought anyone would take that line seriously? He sings like its meant to be revelatory instead of childish, so he must have thought it was good at one point. Oh, as for the music, don’t worry about it. It’s just as generic as the other piano-driven pieces found earlier in the record.
This was a project that Flowers didn’t really want to do, but was forced into after his band went on hiatus. As bad as it is, maybe it’s good that he got all of this out of his system. Now that he’s burned through more cliche lyrics and uninspired piano lines than I previously thought possible for one album, maybe he’ll be rejuvenated with fresh ideas for the next Killers record.