For many, the solo album means experimentation, indulging in music that fellow band members would very probably chuck their instruments at. But not for Brandon Flowers. When he and the other Killers decided to take a year off, the group’s flamboyant frontman had already started writing their fourth album proper and, instead of pushing it to the back of a drawer while he unleashed his inner jazzman or rapper (god forbid), he carried on writing, with only himself to please. Then he enlisted Stuart Price, who worked on The Killers’ last record, 2008’s Day & Age, to co-produce; invited their drummer Ronnie Vannucci to play on a couple of tracks; and finally, named the album, like the Springsteen-saluting Sam’s Town, after a place in the band’s native Las Vegas. (Disappointingly, the title isn’t a stunningly self-aware allusion to a strutting, preposterously plumed creature. Shame.)
So is this just a Killers CD to be filed closer to the start of the shelf? Well, opener Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, with its flag-waving, marching-band pomp, and first single Crossfire, which begs for a stadium and thousands of hands in the air, are the sort of rousing anthems that filled Sam’s Town and littered Day & Age. Magdalena and Was It Something I Said?, with their tinny synths and hook-heavy 80s pop sensibility, could almost have slid in on a slick of Hot Fuss lip-gloss. And then, like those ill-advised adventures into sax (what are you, Matt Bianco?), on Day & Age, there are songs which should have been muzzled, tied up and shackled to the recording studio walls: a sleep-inducing foray into gospel called On the Floor and the I’ve-been-listening-to-Transformer-on-loop Swallow It.
But although much of this sounds like fairly standard Killers fare, there’s nothing that can quite match Mr Brightside or Read My Mind. Some arrangements are unimaginative, and there’s a slight feeling of blandness about the whole. Without his bandmates to rein him in, Flowers has also got a little overexcited with his bible – this, along with the proliferation of gambling metaphors, results in serious imagery fatigue.
Flamingo will keep the fans from growing rabid while The Killers take a break, but if Flowers releases another solo album before reconvening with his colleagues, teeth might well be bared.
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