Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Brandon Flowers has made an album of which The Muppets would be proud. If you think that’s a slight, you’ve obviously never heard any of The Muppets’ consistently amazing musical numbers. The Desired Effect features all the musical theatricality of a full-cast number, the calypso stylings of whatever song Rizzo The Rat is involved in and a tenderness on the vaguely stalkerish ode to a sex worker, ‘Never Get You Right’, that Kermit can only dream of.
Brandon Flowers' solo debut, 2010's Flamingo, seemed to make the case that the line between a Killers album and a Flowers album was blurry at best. Largely a continuation of the anthemic Springsteen-influenced sound of the Killers' 2006 effort Sam's Town, Flamingo also revealed Flowers' inclination toward glossy, synth-heavy, '80s adult-contemporary productions. For his sophomore solo outing, 2015's The Desired Effect, the line between the man and his band begins to sharpen.
Brandon Flowers’s 2010 solo debut, Flamingo, seemed like an extension of his work with the Killers – essentially, blue-collar Springsteenisms given a U2 stadium sheen. The follow-up, produced by Charli XCX collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid, is a very different affair, Flowers’s flair for a hook harnessed to an unashamedly pop-leaning set of songs. In clumsier hands, Can’t Deny My Love might come across like a pastiche of 80s sounds, from its gated drums to its huge chorus, but the effect is triumphant here.
The debut album by Killers frontman Brandon Flowers didn't exactly give any of his band's fans reason for concern that the Las Vegas native might go solo full-time. As accomplished as 2010's Flamingo was, it still felt very much like an artist moonlighting for kicks. The Desired Effect is a different matter entirely.Three years after the last Killers album, 2012's underwhelming Battle Born, Flowers has returned without his wildly successful band, and instead with a wildly ambitious sophomore solo album.
After over a decade of releasing music, it’d be easy enough to assume you’ve got Brandon Flowers pegged. Having released five albums – one of which was his own solo effort 2009’s ‘Flamingo’ - you might be fooled into thinking you could rest easy feeling like you finally know what he’s all about. Yet, it only takes those first few seconds of his latest album’s opener to go and unravel any previous misconceptions you might’ve had of him.
Brandon Flowers’ usual job as front-man of The Killers is going just fine. They’ll never again reach the artistic or commercial peak of their first few singles, but they’ve arrived at the rarefied position of seemingly having the headline slot at the V Festival on permanent reservation, irrespective of the performance of their latest album. In contrast, Flowers’ career as a solo artist is in need of a boost.
Comparisons to Springsteen mattered a few years ago, but the truth is clearer in 2015: Brandon Flowers is our Stevie Nicks. “Mr. Brightside,” “Can’t Deny My Love” — his songs depict the frazzled states of guys who hover at the edge of 17. He loves driving in the rain and girls in white ….
Ex-cons, lost angels, stalkers, the struggling, the lonely and the damned. If Brandon Flowers’ 2010 solo debut ‘Flamingo’ celebrated home, faith and the romance of the Mojave Desert, his second, ‘The Desired Effect’, takes a grittier view on Fabulous Las Vegas. On ‘Diggin’ Up The Heart’, a housebreaker returns from the state pen tormented by dreams of damnation and unable to change his criminal ways.
"Are we human or are we dancer?" Brandon Flowers once asked with the Killers. But as he proves on his excellent new solo album, he sounds most human exactly when he's dancer. The Desired Effect is easily his strongest work since the Killers' 2008 keeper Day & Age, and it's similarly full of synth-disco flourishes. Flowers gets a boost from producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who brings the same New Wave glimmer he brought to recent albums by Sky Ferreira and Haim.
Who is Brandon Flowers, exactly? If the desired effect of his second solo album is to keep us from getting any idea whatsoever, then mission accomplished..
Key to the Killers’ charm was never the rock’n’roll allure of reckless hedonism. No, Brandon Flowers’s band, and his subsequent solo projects, are based on something more slick and mercurial. It’s music that zealously welcomes you into the confetti-filled party before hastily asking you to take off your shoes. Despite toying with the odd bit of experimentation, this followup to his 2010 debut, Flamingo, is largely evocative of 80s drivetime pop-rock – Paul Simon circa Graceland; Status Quo; the smell of lambskin driving gloves.
Review Summary: Brandon Flowers releases a few outstanding singles. Oh, and there's an album here too.Brandon Flowers has a penchant for making bold proclamations. Do you remember in 2006, when he announced that Sam’s Town was going to be “one of the best albums in the past twenty years” and that it would “keep rock n’ roll afloat?” Yeah…about that.
Brandon Flowers and Kanye West have more in common than The Killers frontman may realize. While diametrically opposed musically, both suffer from a slight case of diarrhea of the mouth. For every awards show outburst on West’s part, Flowers manages to stick his foot in his yapper at the onset of a new release. Before The Killers put out 2006’s Sam’s Town, he proclaimed it’d be “one of the best albums of the last 20 years.” (Critics definitely didn’t agree.) He claimed the Las Vegas-based band could be bigger than U2 when Day & Age came out in 2008.
Brandon Flowers is hard to pin down as a pop star, in part because he's still playing at being a pop star. After he stepped into the limelight on the Killers’ still-terrific debut at 22-years-old, he made three more records with his band full of bona fide arena anthems as well as cheap knock-offs that substitute as arena anthems. The latter is why it's advisable to skip over most of his 2010 solo debut Flamingos, if only because the beige, desert-tinged production says and adds very little to his songwriting.
While the rest of The Killers have a lie down and pretend their singer’s work ethic isn’t happening, Brandon Flowers releases his second solo album. It’s his seventh album in 12 years; what is he running on? A solo career was a sure bet, with Flowers pieced together with attributes generally overlooked when constructing rock singers: evangelist religion, Pet Shop Boys’ Behaviour, and the Marlborough man, but he’s possibly the last proper pop star. Yet his skill is in remaining the outsider; he understands that the romance remains with the dreamer, not the achiever.
If the title of Brandon Flowers’s second solo album refers to eliciting a positive response, than the Killers’ frontman’s confidence was well-placed. “The Desired Effect” absolutely brims with pop-rock goodness, spanning several styles that are tied together by the singer’s gifts for combining an instantly memorable tune, clever turns of phrase, ace instrumentation, and his airy yet powerful voice. From stem to stern — and with respect to his day job — it kills.
By delivering New Wave back to arenas in the 21st century, Brandon Flowers defies the typical narrative of bandleader-turned-failed solo artist. Lovingly produced by Ariel Reichtshaid, the sophomore effort by the Killers' frontman abandons some of the alt-rock of his 2010 solo debut Flamingo and toys with heavy bass drum and guitars on standouts "Untangled Love" and "Dreams Come True." Even so, The Desired Effect for a feel-good LP of self-discovery is coming-of-age stories that transform into lost Springsteen anthems. Mission accomplished.