Hannah Butler reviews the latest release from Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers.
The Desired Effect
18 May 2015, Island
[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]t’s been five years since Killers frontman Brandon Flowers struck out on his own with debut solo album Flamingo. Of course, this didn’t spell the end for the Vegas quartet – and 2012’s Battle Born quickly became the Killers’ fourth consecutive UK No. 1 album, paving the way for the band’s biggest world tour to date.
The Killers were back in business, it seemed – but what’s this? Mr Flowers flying solo once again? Apparently so. But if second album The Desired Effect is anything to go by, he’s coming up against some turbulence.
The album definitely starts with a bang. Far from the slow build-up of Flamingo’s ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,’ opening track ‘Dreams Come True’ is an explosion of glamourous jubilation. Soul choir in one hand and brass band in the other, Flowers certainly pulls out all the stops to grab our attention – and he’s got it.
After this euphoria, ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ and ‘I Can Change’ feel a bit of a come-down. But they’re builders, these ones – and Flowers’ desperate demands and promises soon have us hanging on his every word once again.
Nevertheless, by the time ‘Still Want You’ rolls around, we’re ready for something different. And this track is refreshingly exotic. It’s a sway-along-with-your-eyes-closed number, blissfully rhythmic and chilled. But now we’re settled into this new laid-back tone, follow-up track ‘Between Me and You’ just doesn’t do very much. The line between laid-back and meh is very thin. I mean: you’re cute, Brandon, but you can do way more passion than this.
Things seem like they’re getting back on track with ‘Lonely Town.’ It sounds a bit like a classic movie soundtrack, but in all the right ways. Brandon’s got his mojo back – and ‘Diggin’ Up The Heart’ sees him putting on his storytelling hat again. I don’t know who this Tony is, and I still don’t really understand much about his life, but it makes a cracking song.
Unfortunately Tony’s story seems to squeeze the last bit of life from the album. ‘Never Get You Right’ is dangerously close to background music, while ‘Untangled Love’ is fairly nondescript. These feel suspiciously like space-fillers, while ‘The Way It’s Always Been’ sees things grind almost to a halt. Does Flowers know he’s got a whole song to go before the album’s close? But yet again, things do pick up – and we’re left with a soothing, head-nodding end to the record.
This is an album of underwhelming beginnings – but once they get airborne, most tracks are spectacular. He may have ruffled a few feathers recently with his claims the Killers “might be the best band in the last long time,” but Brandon Flowers still has a spark of something special – and he knows it. He’s just making us work a little harder for it this time round.