Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Brandon Flowers - Flamingo (Mercury)

Brandon Flowers has always held the potential of a bonafide, card-carrying popstar. Unashamed flair; a predilection for classic, visual Anglo-pop; frustratingly photogenic; and the obvious focus, whether sought or not, of The Killers, all implied that there was more to offer besides the conventions of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. So with debut solo album Flamingo, does he make good on the promise?

Evidently, the presence of three male bandmates makes for an unconscious emergence of bravado. On his own terms, however, Flowers has no such qualms about expressing a softer side. Twinkly, delicate and introverted are your three courses this evening, and although on paper these may give the impression of ornate or effeminate, Flamingo – in spite of its title as well – holds very much a chin-strokingly blokey sound.

There’s a much more organic feel here than on any Killers material, and couldn’t be further from the synthy, glamourous call-to-arms of most recent album Day & Age. In fact, it’s difficult to find parallels on most levels – where Hot Fuss was rooted in androgynous indie with a distinctly British flavour, Flamingo is very much a generous serving of Americana.

It seems The Killers’ short stretch as modern rock royalty has taken its toll heavily, with Flowers sounding decades past his 29 years, particularly on the gospel elegy On The Floor or the ironically-titled Only The Young. It’s tones such as these which present Flamingo as an understated, almost morose affair – potentially, the type of album that the more casual listener might lose interest in scarily quickly. However, it’s by no means the overall theme, with Flamingo merely taking a while to spring into life.
And it’s these louder moments that allow Flowers to truly blossom. Boom-boom. Was It Something I Said is a burningly immediate toe-tapper, while the subtle Mariachi stylings of Magdalena fast approaches the brilliance of lead single Crossfire. However, the fact that the three are clubbed together somewhere in the second half only serves to make the remainder of Flamingo drag ever so slightly.
If you’d been hoping that feathery epaulets and Pet Shop Boys collaborations were the stepping stone to a session with Red One and a Bruce Weber photoshoot, there’ll be severe disappointment. It’s perhaps not as bold a statement as the music world had been expecting, and demonstrates a more fatigued, withdrawn Flowers to the one most expected off the back of a ninja Charlize Theron punctuated by falsetto. But it’s a new side to him, in which the quality is irrefutable, and while it may not be the unveiling of a great pop star, it’s a reminder of an exceptional musician.

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