In the video for his debut solo single, an increasingly battered Brandon Flowers is rescued time and again by an ass-kicking Charlize Theron. But his increasingly sheepish look every time she blasts through the door is even more telling.
It’s your first clue the 29-year-old singer has some issues with going it alone. Your second? His admission to feeling “a little bit naked” without the other members of the band he fronted to fame.
He has reason to feel insecure: ‘Flamingo’ sounds exactly like a Killers album – just not quite as good. Given the freedom to call all the shots, Flowers plays it very safe – recycling vocal melodies, bass lines, even lyrics – while the hired band simply go through the motions. Not even producers Brendan O’Brien and Daniel Lanois – who, between them, have rejuvenated Springsteen, Dylan, and U2 – get the Las Vegas native out of his comfort zone, or draw much emotion out of the session musos.
But, despite the tired familiarity, Flowers does hit the jackpot a few times.
With its reference to neon lights, call girls, black jack, cocaine, palm trees, and more neon lights, the bombastic show tune ‘Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas’ – all pedal steel guitar, circus drum rolls, and crooned vocals – is the perfect intro for this love letter to Sin City. ‘Crossfire’, despite its lazy beat, proves the singer can still come up with an irresistible melody. The hymnal ‘On The Floor’, complete with cameo appearance by gospel choir, is notable if only for its stark beauty. ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts’ busts out with a carefree energy. And folk rock parable Playing with Fire captures the wide open spaces of America’s heartland with all the storytelling skill of Springsteen and Kings of Leon.
But it’s the enthralling ‘Hard Enough’, an affecting duet with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, that’s undoubtedly the set’s royal flush. Easily the finest moment here, it belongs in the same league as ‘Mr Brightside’, ‘Somebody Told Me’, and ‘When You Were Young’. Beautifully poised and instantly memorable, it almost makes up for the likes of laboured electro-pop ballad ‘Only The Young’ – which hauls out the pedal steel again – that confuses gravitas with all-out boredom.
Bring back the band, Brandon.
- This article originally appeared on iafrica.com.