In music, people don’t often agree much, but the jury have been unanimous in saying that it has been a long time since we’ve seen the best of Brandon Flowers from the studio. His first solo project, ‘Flamingo’, was disappointing and without being carried by hit ‘Crossfire’ it would’ve barely warranted discussion. After taking a while to go back with the band for who he is the often seen as the face of, Flowers has returned with a polished and well thought out pop-rock record. ‘The Desired Effect’, released today, has exactly that; it has been set out with the help of Ariel Rechtshaid to have the similar qualities that he has recently been able to develop with Vampire Weekend and Haim – in fact, he’s borrowed Danielle Haim for one track on the drums.
Recorded mainly at Battle Born Studios, the album title of The Killers’ most recent misfire, ‘The Desired Effect’ is an production that oozes hard work and the fine-tooth combing of Flowers’ inspirations. It has elements of Springsteen at his brilliant best, and manages to combine such stadium rock with a dash of Bronski Beat synthesising for good measure. Opener “Dreams Come True” is an open invitation for one of the best showmen around to show off his presence as the performance love-child of Elvis Presley and Freddie Mercury. Released in March, the second single “Can’t Deny My Love” grooves like the significantly better looking sibling of Robin Thicke’s torturous ‘Blurred Lines’, which Flowers criticised as an act of blatant plagiarism – it also managed to promote rape and the objectification of women, which was also really good, wasn’t it?
The album, released with Island Records, shows no sign of shooting any blanks with fillers. “I Can Change” samples “Smalltown Boy”, undermining entirely his argument about Robin Thicke, yet managing to give it his own spin that touches base with the original just often enough to imagine you’re in an 80s bar in Hamburg on a Sunday night (that actually happened, although I threw in the towel and fell asleep when Eurythmics featured).
Previous to this, the aforementioned second track “Can’t Deny My Love” is twinned with a video that looks like a musical excerpt from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, it’s not witchcraft, but it’s very good. From here on out, not a reference to the “Battle Born” track, “The Desired Effect” is an exhibition of everything that represents Flowers as an artist. “Lonely Town” mixes the true romantic side to which he is so often engaged with the lust of a home-alone Penelope Mitchell dancing around to the combination of Flowers and Haim, inspired by The Police. He completes the album, talking his way through “The Way It’s Always Been” and giving the record an atmospheric image that is almost 4 minutes of sun-kissed celebration. Concerned that he’s “set in his ways”, Flowers and Rechtshaid’s production is a glowing success and will revitalise the career of one of the last decade’s favourite sons.