I always worry that I review things too quickly, and that a review is better if done from afar, but the site could use an update, and I’ve been listening to this album a ton since picking it up two weeks ago, so why not?!
Flamingo is Brandon Flowers’ solo foray, and I’m comfortable saying that it is exactly the record you think it is. Flowers is the component of the Vegas-based Killers which pushes the music from being bargain-bin New Wave synthpop to something epic. Sure, maybe he pushes a little too hard, and then people call him melodramatic, and the accusation isn’t entirely unfair.
But out on his own, Flowers no longer needs to push or pull anyone or anything. The record sounds more or less like a Killers album where Flowers got to make all the decisions. This works out really well in some places, and falls flat in a few others. For instance, the opening track: ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.’ I guess I’m just sick of Brandon Flowers singing to me about Las Vegas. Isn’t that what Sam’s Town was all about? Is there really that much more to say? I don’t think so, but that’s me.
After that, ‘Only The Young’, which has a pretty crazy video, starts to get things going into a better direction. The first really great track is the third, ‘Hard Enough‘. It wouldn’t be an indie side-project without the requisite Jenny-Lewis-Guest-Vocal-Track, and Flowers doesn’t leave us hanging, and Lewis’s vocals really are a fantastic accent to this heart-felt tune.
I like the following track, ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts’ because it gets a little closer to having the “punch” that defines the best Killers tracks, really building towards a pretty epic finale: this is one track where he pulls it off.
The second half of the record is a mixed bag. ‘Playing With Fire’ is a solid song, if a little bit lengthy and slow at almost 6 minutes. The next pair, ‘Was It Something I Said?’ and ‘Magdalena’ are too alike and jangle-ly to really be that great. There’s definitely moments where you can feel something cool going on, but these ones are pretty stock “Brandon Flowers sings about some event happening with some girl taking place in an ambiguously south-western setting” type songs. Not bad, but kinda blah.
One of my favorite tracks of the past summer is the late-breaker ‘Crossfire’. It’s disappointing that more of the material couldn’t have hit this sweet-spot of drama and emotion paired with as much restraint as Flowers can muster, because it really makes for great music. Whoever the house band percussionist was, they seem to do particularly well on this track. Also: the video has Charlize Thereon in it, and is really great in an action-packed sort of way:
Disappointing then that this is followed with ‘On the Floor’, the most boring, preachy piece of music out of the ten tracks. I appreciate artists trying to play around with more traditional styles of music (here: gospel, soul), but damn does it stick out like a sore thumb, and sound like crap to boot.
Luckily, the closer is really, really good. Oddly named, ‘Swallow It’ has a really curious message about the merits of growing up, taking responsibility, and it dials down the grandiose style of most of the bigger songs before it while still having a really distinct sound. I like this one so much I usually listen to it twice before moving on to a different record.
All in all, it’s like I said: this is exactly what you would expect from a record by, about, and largely for Brandon Flowers. I think he still is at his best as the larger-than-life component he plays in the Killers, but if you even remotely enjoy his past work, it’s hard to go wrong with Flamingo.
Aside: Seriously, though: can we be done with Las Vegas after this? …please?