RIYL: The Killers, Vigilantes of Love, U2
Flamingo, or chameleon? Listeners who mainly remember Brandon Flowers from early Killers hit singles like “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me” may be in for a bit of a shock with his solo debut, which finds him toning down the gulpy vocal shtick that made him famous – and finally making the widescreen roots rock record he was aiming for with Sam’s Town.
Flowers has always struggled to get a grip on his outsize ambitions, and there are moments on Flamingo that don’t resonate as strongly as they’re supposed to. For the first time in his career, though, he doesn’t sound like he’s trying too hard; these songs come across more like personal statements than would-be epics. They’re still woefully derivative of Flowers’ influences – seeing Daniel Lanois’ name in the credits is going to trigger waves of eye-rolling from U2 fans who still think of Flowers as a Bono wannabe – but the difference here is that instead of trying to stand on the shoulders of giants to craft Grand Statements, he’s just using his musical DNA to write songs. It may read like a pretty fine distinction, but when it’s pouring out of the speakers, it’s huge – the difference between being handed a message and beaten over the head with it.
Of course, he’s still earnest to a fault. Flamingo might present a slightly subtler Brandon Flowers, but this is still music that leaves you feeling like you’re speeding across a lonely highway, or pensively looking out over a sepia desert mountaintop. It never hits as hard as it wants to, but so few mainstream rock records even bother asking you to really feel anything anymore – there’s something hopelessly noble about an album aimed so squarely at the heart. (Island 2010)