CD Review

Killers frontman not in the pink on ‘Flamingo’

Brandon Flowers’s solo album, “Flamingo,’’ is due out tomorrow. Brandon Flowers’s solo album, “Flamingo,’’ is due out tomorrow.
By James Reed
Globe Staff / September 13, 2010

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‘Flamingo’’ is Brandon Flowers’s debut solo album, but really in name only. The Killers frontman had written it for his band, but when the other members decided to take a hiatus earlier this year, Flowers soldiered on and recorded the new songs without them.

That’s an important bit of back story for anyone expecting “Flamingo’’ to make a grand statement about Flowers as a solo artist. It doesn’t. Instead, the new album, which is out tomorrow, builds on the foundation of the Killers’ last studio release, 2008’s “Day & Age.’’

The caveat? “Flamingo’’ is an unworthy follow-up, full of treacly power-pop melodies, leaden lyrics, and the depressing suspicion that nothing was left on the cutting-room floor.

You can say this, though: “Flamingo’’ is as outsize and extravagant as the city that supposedly inspired it, Flowers’s hometown of Las Vegas. Flowers feverishly blows up the songs as if they’re helium balloons bound for the stratosphere. Any sense of restraint — which, granted, has never been the Killers’ specialty — is steamrolled by one bombastic chorus after another.

Like so much of the Killers’ output, “Flamingo’’ doesn’t leave much room for your own interpretation. Regardless of the arrangements, Flowers soars and sweeps through these 10 songs, beginning with the opening “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.’’ He somehow trots out every cliche you could imagine about the city — from its harlots and neon lights to palm trees and cocaine — before asking, “Didn’t nobody tell you/ The house will always win?’’ The only thing missing is someone banging a gong.

No doubt that’s why the more dialed-down moments strike a chord, because they inspire you to feel something rather than tell you how to feel. First single “Crossfire’’ is relatively reeled in, but then it’s hard to glean much from empty sentiments like this: “When the hardest part is over/ We’ll be here/ And our dreams will break the boundaries of our fears.’’

It doesn’t help that three different producers — Stuart Price, Daniel Lanois, and Brendan O’Brien — brought their wildly disparate styles to this album; accordingly, “Flamingo’’ paints in broad strokes. With a click of castanets, there’s a faint air of flamenco romanticism on the embarrassingly overwrought “Magdalena.’’ Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis shows up for a forgettable duet on “Hard Enough,’’ and a lonesome twang haunts “Playing With Fire,’’ until the pedal steel suddenly gives way to stray bits of synth.

He’s been dogged by this comparison before, but occasionally it sounds like Flowers is nursing a serious Springsteen obsession on this album. On “Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts,’’ as he ramps up to the chorus, you’ll swear Flowers is about to belt, “Baby, we were born to run!’’

Flowers saves the real head-scratcher for last. The closing “Swallow It’’ is an undeniable imitation of Lou Reed, or at least his signature vocal style. It’s an odd yet welcome surprise, but for an album whose title is meant to summon a sense of splendor, “Flamingo’’ is sadly lackluster.

James Reed can be reached at