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Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect (Review)

Brandon Flowers, The Desired Effect

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

BRANDON Flowers just can’t escape his love of the ’80s. Whether fronting The Killers or going it alone, the singer-songwriter cannot escape from the influence of that decade.

Hence, for better or worse his second solo offering The Desired Effect is probably the album his fans will have been expecting. It’s as big, brash and flamboyant as we’ve come to expect but, at the same time, curiously risk free.

The driving force this time is ’80s drive-time pop-rock more than the American landscape storytelling style of Bruce Springsteen (with whom The Killers share more of an affinity). Instead, we have elements of Peter Gabriel, Bruce Hornsby, Steve Winwood, Queen, Meatloaf and Bronski Beat, as well as Pet Shop Boys and even A-Ha.

At its best, the album operates in unashamedly upbeat pop territory, as evidenced by early highlight I Can Change, which rather than paying homage to an inspiration actually lifts the central refrain of Bronski Beat’s classic Smalltown Boy as its backing. The result is oddly kitsch yet strangely empowering and a real feel-good anthem.

Album opener Dreams Come True, similarly, is big and celebratory, as its name suggests, complete with rousing backing vocals over its epic chorus. If anything, though, it’s the closest song to a Killers track on the LP and wrong-foots you into thinking this album won’t be that different.

Some of the most daring moments, ironically, come in the opening moments of songs… the frenzied synths of Diggin’ Up The Heart signal an altogether livewire pop-rocker that could even pass for an ELO or Shakin’ Stevens record. They’re not really heard again but it’s a take-notice start that later incorporates some rollicking rock ‘n’ roll guitar riffs and a chorus in which Flowers is clearly having fun extending his vocal range.

Similarly, Still Want You drops in a striking electronic arrangement and a slick percussion that’s later augmented by a female choir on back-up over the extremely catchy chorus.

Untangled Love, on the other hand, gets as big as a Meatloaf record at times, while incorporating a Hall & Oates style chorus, complete with falsetto vocal, and Lonely Town mixes Winwood-style organs with stabs of brass for a track that sounds like it should belong on an ’80s Brat Pack movie soundtrack. It’s that kitsch… but arguably not in a good way. It’s just not contemporary enough.

Indeed, one of the most telling obstacles in preventing The Desired Effect from really breaking off the shackles of past criticisms of Killers/Flowers material is that it remains a little too rooted in the past at times, sometimes foregoing the need to add that little spark of freshness.

Hence, as engaging as things get – and there’s a lot of fun to be found – the album seldom feels like a stretch for Flowers or that much of a progression. It’s as much a guilty pleasure to listen to as it was, probably, for Flowers to create. In that regard, it probably has the desired effect for fans… but shouldn’t we expect a little more by now?

Download picks: I Can Change, Diggin’ Up The Heart, I Still Want You, Never Get You Right

Track listing:

  1. Dreams Come True
  2. Can’t Deny My Love
  3. I Can Change
  4. Still Want You
  5. Between Me And You
  6. Lonely Town
  7. Diggin’ Up The Heart
  8. Never Get You Right
  9. Untangled Love
  10. The Way It’s Always Been