Brandon Flowers :: Flamingo [LP]

The first sounds on The Killers' seminal 2004 debut Hot Fuss were the whack of descending helicopter blades. On Brandon Flowers' first solo record Flamingo, due out next Tuesday, we hear only the chirp of crickets as album opener "Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas" emerges, a little folksy and a little bombastic. Flowers is no less obsessed with broken dreams and a fragile Americana, but this time the ethic is that of back porch storyteller, not a triumphant landing party.

The inescapable ethos of Flamingo, a record originally written and intended as the full band's fourth studio album, is that of a wistful, almost weathered nostalgia. When Flowers remarks blithely on the album's first track, "Didn't nobody tell you the house will always win?" it is with the perspective of a man who knows just how powerful institutions can be. On track two, "Only The Young," the catchy chorus is a portrait of an older man, claustrophobic, staring in the rear-view mirror at his youth. Maybe most crushing is "Hard Enough," a track so beaten-down, Flowers invokes Jenny Lewis' broken vocals for the duet on the chorus. Those expecting charging, battle-ready hymns will necessarily need to look elsewhere.

In the cloudy snow globe of Mr. Flowers' inspirations all is not remember-ten-years-back-when-you-were-young morosity. The comparatively ebullient "Magdalena" is an updated Springsteen anthem, rife with slide guitar, soaring backing vocals and a key change with enough buoyant power to pull the meditative side of the record out of the water. Even single, "Crossfire," with its illusions to a special type of purgatory is more relief than damnation. Most revealing is "Swallow It," evoking Talking Heads bizarre-pop and its message of temperance and maturity against a culture all too ready to eat at the buffet, stuff ourselves, obsessed with learning to run before we walk. While it isn't the most aspirational record, the expectation is that we're beyond that kind of pep talk. Flowers has us to himself, soft American songs in the fading darkness of early evening.

Follow us on Twitter for an mp3 of "Magdalena." Flamingo is out today in the UK and next week in the US.

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