Monday 25 May 2015

Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect

Most frontmen are absolutely connected to the band they perform with. What would U2 be without Bono? Mumford and Sons would lose their namesake. And can you imagine a Chris Martin solo album? God forbid.

Kele Okereke is one of the few artists whose solo material has managed to transcend that of his band, Bloc Party. Largely that's due to the complete change in style from rock to dance, as well as the inclusion of other vocalists.

So how does Brandon Flowers fit into this scenario? This isn't his first solo album, but 2010's 'Flamingo' was little more than a copycat Killers record. Now he's done more than enough to separate himself from the band and establish himself as a credible solo artist. That, undoubtedly, is the desired effect.

But how has he achieved this when his voice is synonymous with The Killers and their drunken student night anthem Mr. Brightside? Predominantly he's thrown everything at this album in the hopes that something will stick. Most of it does.

Some tracks are more successful than others, though. Still Want You has an annoyingly childlike melody. Diggin' Up The Heart is an old-fashioned rock n roll number. Closer The Way It's Always Been is oddly traditional by comparison to the rest of the album, lacking the overall high levels of creativity.

Yet when Flowers gets it right, the results rival the best of The Killers. Opener Dreams Come True begins the album with a horn fanfare and a rhythmic African flavour that Paul Simon would be proud of. Lead single Can't Deny My Love is full on kitchen sink musical drama. Lonely Town sounds like Bruce Springsteen given a modern day makeover. And I Can Change pulses with its sample of Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy.

That last track exemplifies explicitly the huge 80s influence on 'The Desired Effect'. There are moody synths, guitar solos, heavily processed percussion, auto-tuned vocals, gospel choirs, and plenty of electronic wizardry. Flowers has well and truly used every sonic tool at his disposal - this is cinematic pop with a distinct American flair that's certainly reflected in the video for Can't Deny My Love.

Somehow it all comes together in a cohesive album. In part that's down to his recognisable vocal, but it's also because at the heart of his music - and that of The Killers - are stadium-ready, bombastic, anthemic tunes. You might not be singing tracks from this album in a sweaty club at 3am whilst drunk on Vodka RedBulls, but musically 'The Desired Effect' is far more interesting than anything Flowers did with his previous band. A fruitful solo career seems inevitable.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Can't Deny My Love
* I Can Change
* Lonely Town

Listen: 'The Desired Effect' is out now.