2 June 2015

Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect

The boy from the desert still seems to have the golden touch.  For those people who do not know (there might be some out there), Brandon Flowers is the singer of a band called The Killers; The Killers are very popular with their albums topping the charts around the world and making them into global mega stars.  During the time that this blog has existed there has only been one release from The Killers in the form of 'Battle Born' (cleverly linked here) and to be honest we were harsh but far with it - it did not live up to what the band are capable of producing.  Since then the band have gone on another hiatus and the solo careers are back in effect.  Now I have not heard the first Brandon Flowers solo album, call it having too much to do here; but I have been curious to see what the difference between his solo work and his day job would be.  On paper, this album looks like it could be a winner - it is produced by Mr Flowers and Ariel Rechtshaid who has been producing a lot of pop and indie acts - HAIM, Beyonce, Sky Ferreira, We Are Scientist amongst others, on paper it is a really good match as Mr Flowers is very found of the 80's and Mr Rechtshaid is also found of giving that sort of production to songs - how has it faired? 

“Dreams Comes True” is the first song from this album, a song about keeping on in there and that dreams can actually happen for people if they can focus on it; the music feels like it is a bit of a cross between Mr Flowers’ day job and Paul Simon during his ‘Graceland’ era.  It is an interesting if not spectacular opening which have a good dose of indie pop mixed into the song, but it does have those anthemic ambitions that was always a trademark of the Killers.  “Can’t Deny Love” is even more in love with 80’s and the cheese level is so high that even stoner's who are floating have to strain their necks to see the peak.  The ambitions of the record can be pinned on this song, this one is the song where everything makes sense and we see the Mr Flowers’ wishes he was back in the 80’s and MTV still played music videos on its main channel.  It is another good song, but I have a feeling it is wanting to aim for me than just good.  The third track is called “I Can Change” and the piano introduction gives way to a sound which sounds akin to Bronski Beat and their hit “Smalltown Boy (Look Away)” during the verses.  It starts off like it would be a standard piano ballad and then turns into another song a bit like a cast off from HAIM; it also has a drum break which is straight out of the New Order hand book – there are influences, there are tributes and then there is this song which drives it like it stole it.  It is not even subtle about it…..

With a click intro and standard percussion, we are in the summer party chill down song where you are all around the campfire and everyone is smiling, the drink is flowing and the song has nothing to do with what is happening in front of you; at least that is what I would expect the video to be like, it is not a song for me and when I heard songs like this when I was younger I felt the exact same – next.  “Between Me & You” is a more minimal song (for this album at least) and it actually works a lot better for me, it is obviously a filler track on the record (it is the first that does not try to be an anthem for starters) and this makes it different for this record so far.  The standard boy meets girl, he is a bit of a douche and regrets his mistakes and wants said girl back and to even let the girl go – average pop material at best, but it works a lot better than quite a lot of this record and actually works a lot better as there is no expectations of the number.  “Lonely Town” with its horn section has a Steve Winwood feel and with that modern retro feel which is a signature of producer Ariel Rechshaid and his work with Haim, Sky Ferreira, etc; it has a heavy bass and minimal keyboards for the most part and then ends up with that anthemic ending which is strangely the mission on the vast part of this album.  The synth vocals a-la Cher also throws something else in an over-full pot, the more stripped back parts of the song (in a given sense of stripped back, with that pulsing bass you are not exactly being minimal) are the parts which work best and it is let down by the artist and producer for not being able to take some layers off it.

“Diggin’ Up The Heart” has a rock ‘n’ roll feeling about it, mixed with a slight country feel from the guitar and suffers under the over production malaise of this album; underneath the exciting drumming, louder than necessary vocals and extra horns, keyboards and other stuff could be a soulful number that would have made a cowboy cry a lonely tear – instead we have this, it is not awful but it is not even on nodding terms with the word good.  “Never Get You Right” is a new version of “The Way It Is” which was originally done by Bruce Hornsby & The Range – the only difference is that Mr Flowers is still unable to have an ending to a song when he is not adding more like a indie-pop Celine Dion; this song was on course to being the track of the album and it just falls apart at the end.  Emotional music is really good, but sometimes having less makes the song mean more; it could have been so much more.  The penultimate song of the album is “Untangled Love” which has a piano intro that you know from the beginning is going to explode into a Las Vegas casino show tune and right on cue it does just that.  It is a tad frustrating, but I will get to that in a bit; for now let’s just say that once again it not a bad song, but it could have been so much more.  Ending the album is “The Way its Always Been” and it is a case of too late in the day (for the majority of the song); it is laid back and the tables are being cleaned up, the reflective feel of the song is good; but it has extra keyboards, strings and more over production than a Meatloaf song when he is in full flight and thankfully brings this album to an end.

I feel like I am kicking a puppy here as the man is clearly passionate about his music and there is nothing wrong with a retro feel to an album, but this was handed to the wrong producers sadly (which is something I would not have laid at either men before this review was started); it suffers from not knowing when to stop added layers, instruments and when to keep the vocal delivery needs to be reined in just slightly.  There is about seven of the tracks on this album that would have been uplifted by either a producer that could have stepped back from his own preference (both men are guilty on this one) which might have worked for other artists (or themselves) and let the songs breathe a little, it is a shame as I do like Brandon Flowers as a vocalist, I like Ariel Rechtshaid as a producer and I know Brandon Flowers will one day release a solo album that will floor everyone with its songs, passion and I will be more than delighted – this is not that album, it is overcooked project of ideas, thoughts and dreams which have been executed poorly so they can only (and sadly) be viewed as anything other than a disappointment.  I can see that it has been getting lots of praise from the music press, but the fact is that in a few years time this will sound dated and in need of losing a few pounds.  All the marks are for effort only (and the marking comment is also spot on)….

2.5 out of ten - If only there was some quality control

Top track – Between Me & You

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Brandon Flowers website here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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