Brandon Flowers has always straddled two musical schools throughout his musical career – the synth- driven indie pop that he grew up listening too in his Walkman headphones, such as New Order and The Cure; and the widescreen Americana sounds that channel the spirit of Springsteen et al.
His second solo album, ‘The Desired Effect’, leans heavily on the former with Brandon embracing his pop sensibilities with gusto. He doesn’t just dip a toe half-heartedly into 80s pop water, it’s a full five course meal with all the sides. In lesser hands, the polished guitar riffs, gleeful synths and musical-esque backing singers could have easily sound contrite. But perhaps because this is the musical side of his brain that he prefers, the ten tracks sound perfectly at home underneath his guidance. There’s also an energy present that was sorely lacking on The Killers’ 2012 album ‘Battle Born’, which might suggest that Brandon and The Killers work best when they’re not trying to be the next blue-collar rock heroes. ‘Hot Fuss’ would certainly testify to that.
The album opens with a Duran Duran/Lion King mash up ‘Dreams Come True’, which suggests that if the next move for Brandon is Broadway, it might fare better than another one of his musical heroes, U2, and their dismal Spider-man show. One of his coming-of-age icons, Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant appears on the dancefloor-destined ‘I Can Change’, which also samples Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ (a top ten hit in 1984), just in case Brandon’s shiny synth-pop influences weren’t quite clear enough. Later in the album, the up-beat ‘Diggin’ Up The Heart’ causes uncontrollable urges to buy shoulder pads. Not a bad thing.
It wouldn’t be a Brandon Flowers album without a little melodrama of course, but the glistening pop songs counterbalance his sincerity and this could be the first set of tracks that see Flowers’ back on the UK’s dancefloors for something other than ‘Mr Brightside’. Crucially the playfulness on ‘The Desired Effect’ means that unlike recent Killers outings, the bombastic nature of Brandon’s songwriting never falls into an ‘Arena Rock 101′ lull.
There are certainly a couple of emotional punches to break up the more lively numbers, with ‘Between Me and You’ and ‘Lonely Town’ shimmering with heartbreak and remorse. The album ends with ‘The Way It’s Always Been’, a beautiful slow-burner that touches on the regrets of growing old. The lyrics of wistful nostalgia sitting perfectly alongside a soundtrack that would happily grace the final scenes of a John Hughes’ movie.
The biggest compliment that you could give Brandon on ‘The Desired Effect’ is that played next to the 80’s albums he adores, it wouldn’t sound out of place, while it would also slot seamlessly within today’s top 40. It’s a remarkable step up from his first solo record, ‘Flamingo’, which was simply an undercooked extension of his day job – a cobble of rejected band songs.
By digging deep into his A-Z encyclopedia of pop-knowledge, he’s manages to create an album that tips its hat to the past, but may also end up as one of the finest pop albums of 2015.
You can see Brandon Flowers live at one of the following venues…
21st May 2015 – O2 Academy Brixton, London TICKETS
22nd May 2015 – O2 Academy Brixton, London TICKETS