Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit


Brandon Flowers – Flamingo
12 September 2010, 18:00 Written by Andy Johnson

Solo debuts by members of established bands always run the risk of being weighed down by the trappings of their former life, and right from the beginning there were several signals that Brandon Flowers‘ first outing would go that way. The Killers frontman confessed that these songs were originally written for an abortive fourth LP from his on-hiatus band, the album is named after a casino in Flowers’ native Vegas just up the road from Sam’s Town, the gambling house after which the second Killers album was titled, and Flowers further admitted that recording Flamingo without his familiar bandmates was a lonely experience. Clearly the past looms large over this record, but to Flowers’ credit the songs – for the most part – do have a personality of their own, even if these pop-rock confections are of a decidedly mixed quality.

That other part is ‘Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts’. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that lyrically speaking this song is essentially what Lennon might have called a “potboiler rewrite” of ‘Mr. Brightside’, spruced up with a surfeit of gambling imagery right of – among other places – Chris Cornell’s Casino Royale theme song ‘You Know My Name’. Musically speaking it fails to rally a tenth the verve and excitement of either of those touchpoints, its flatly thumping beats and subdued guitar circling a little uncomfortably in the light of the fact that what you borrow from, you get compared to.

Flowers’ more original songs maintain the feeling that Flamingo is a folder of love letters to Las Vegas and its darkly glitzy glamour. After very briefly sounding like he’s trying to sound like Dylan, Flowers uses the piano-led, grandiose opener ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ to introduce us to the city’s “neon-encrusted temples” and to ask “didn’t nobody tell you / the house will always win?” Well yes, Mr. Flowers, we believe we have heard that before, actually. ‘Was It Something I Said?’ makes use of the hasty-Vegas-wedding archetype, but much better is ‘Magdalena’, blessed with a elegant vocal melody that Flowers is able to really play with, giving a lighter touch to the lyrics, which made a rare departure from Nevada, going as far afield as San Francisco and Mexico.

While good in parts, Flamingo is really dragged down by the songs which have grand adornments which are out of proportion with their artistic merit. Chief culprit is perhaps ‘On The Floor’ which drags in a full gospel choir to help Flowers out with a song which is ultimately pretty leaden, rivalling earlier track ‘Playing With Fire’ in its resemblance to a dirge. Unlike, say, Kele Okereke of Bloc Party, Flowers doesn’t quite sound as though he has enough confidence, will and ideas to put together a strong solo record. Flamingo briefly hints at being a winner, but in the end it seems that Lady Luck – not to mention Saint Cecilia – is not fully behind Flowers this time.

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