Nine months after announcing The Killers hiatus – and having joined the legions of frontmen heading their own way – Brandon Flowers has emerged from the studio with Flamingo, a record that will be more than a touch familiar to fans of his old band. Opening with an ode to his hometown, ‘Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas’, we soon found ourselves in ‘new Killers’ territory, with slow building verses giving way to big, bold choruses (though slightly less bold than the Hot Fuss era), and lyrics riddled with strange twists and unsubtle double entendres.
There’s something curiously personal about Flowers in this incarnation. ‘Only The Young’ betrays a fragile fallibility, memorable for the alien bleepiness that infects it, while in ‘Hard Enough’, Flowers croons “I promise that I’m older now”, sharing vocal duties with Jenny Lewis (frontwoman of fellow Las Vegas group Rilo Kiley) in an apologetic last-gasp love song. The first few tracks have lost what was left of The Killer’s ‘rock’ edge, but are also a lot softer and subtler, showing the odd moment of real class. ‘Only The Young’ in particular is a top-end example of an alternative pop song. Later, though, things lose their direction.
Flowers is famously a member of the ‘Church of the Latter Day Saints’ – a controversial organization to say the least – and the second half of Flamingo seems to drift into worshipping territory. Whatever you think of his faith, musically, the like of ‘Magdalena’, ‘Crossfire’ and ‘On The Floor’ are nothing if not predictable, with ‘Crossfire’ building to a lofty Killers-esque bridge before descending into a mellow chorus that – one strong line aside – packages it straight off into ‘meh’ territory. There’s a sense that Flowers has run out of things to say, and resorted instead to filling the album with a blurb of repetition thinly veiled with a topic that he’s probably aware will be contentious. We’ll judge it on the music alone, though, and the second half doesn’t bear repeat listening.
All in all, then, Flowers shows glimpses of what he’s capable of constructing as a solo artist. It’s instantly recognizable, yet at times indulges in playful aspects that might seem a touch too off-the-wall for Killers fans, but fit perfectly here. It’s hardly groundbreaking, though, and the musically monotonous journey into not-very-well-concealed preachy territory is a real turn off. For that, individual songs aside, it’ll prove a hard one to love.