Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers, has officially begun his solo career with the release of Flamingo. It’s clear from the very first song that he hasn’t strayed too far from The Killers’ sound – “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” opens with a sound that could be pulled from any one of their four albums. “Only the Young,” the second song, plays with an African influence that can first be detected on Day & Age. Indeed, there are familiar elements all throughout Flamingo. Flowers isn’t letting the listener forget where he’s from, or where he’s been.
However, Flowers certainly didn’t limit himself to the sound he created with his band. This album sounds first and foremost like an artistic experiment. For the first time, he sings a duet with a female musician: Jenny Lewis, who is both a solo artist and the lead singer of Rilo Kiley. A couple of the songs, most notably “Was it Something I Said?,” have a few Arcade Fire-inspired qualities to them, which is an influence I hadn’t yet heard in a Killers album. There are even hints of country music throughout Flamingo – this was perhaps the most surprising to me.
Flowers is perfectly comfortable having most of a song’s focus on his voice, rather than the band as a whole. These tracks are musically complex, but the instrumentation does not compete with or overwhelm Flowers’ voice in any way. He doesn’t stick to safe, easy melodies, either – he’s really pushing his talents to a new level. “Playing with Fire” demonstrates that there are still limitations to his voice, but songs like “Crossfire” and “Magdalena” show how far he’s come as a vocalist since the days when he could barely get through a performance of “Somebody Told Me.”
For me, the experiment paid off. Brandon Flowers has a gift for storytelling and clever lyrics, which shines through no matter what project he’s working on. The fact that he’s pushing himself on this solo album suggests that when the time comes for The Killers to reunite, they’ll be even better than ever.
For your listening and viewing pleasure, here’s a link to the video for “Crossfire.” It’s a little graphic, though – for fairly unexplained reasons, Flowers is being tortured. Luckily, a pretty blonde saves the day.