herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Brandon Flowers

The early Killers' gigs I attended were patchwork affairs, but a combination of gauche charm and redemptive ambition lent something of the eager self-belief of door-to-door evangelists.

That they didn't come across as po-faced as early U2 was due largely to the winsome come-hither of frontman Brandon Flowers. Something he shared with U2 was a young Bono's ability to make outlandish assertions on the world. A kindly critique was that, he too was intoxicated by life in an expanding goldfish bowl.

Intoxication, as in getting langers, is not something Brandon's familiar with. He says he's never been drunk. Nor will he ever be, he claims.

That fact alone, puts him in a unique category of musical performer.

While loathe to drag religion into a consideration of a new album, it's impossible to ignore the rock'n'roll belief that the devil has all the best tunes. That's as may be. But when did old Cloven-Hoof last write a jingle as catchy as Brandon Flowers?

I can hear you Satanists protest, "But they're different genres." And to some extent they are. But these things are designed to sell. Not to explore personal angst, regret or aspiration, in an attempt to soothe the soul.

With The Killers, Brandon has delivered big anthemic tunes. As a solo artist, on his second album, he's teamed with producer of the moment, Ariel Rechtshaid, to create sounds that leap from the speakers. Ariel's idea of contemporary is to ransack the 1980s and 90s for galumphing drums beats, clanging cadences and woolly synth brass.

On Lonely Town, he even goes for a bit of the Cher effect, with a bit of the Digitech Talker voice box as used on Believe in 1998. And so, unexpectedly, Brandon comes across like a ghost of Shakin' Stevens on Diggin' Up The Heart. It's almost cute.

While Flowers displays the courage of his religious convictions on some songs, his majestically delivered assertion that I Can Change, set across a generous lift from Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy lacks the purity of Jimmy Somerville's cri-de-coeur.

He's come along way from his solo debut Flamingo, an album inspired by Las Vegas. Here, Brandon teases out some of the big stuff that has long puzzled philosophers. The Way It's Always Been anticipates the return to earth of Christ. That Brandon's song sounds like a Tom Petty track, with ELO guesting, helps disguise the nuttiness of the lyrical message.

He channels the spirit of the other Boss, Springsteen, on Between Me and You. HHHHI

(Island)

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