The Designer’s Drugs: Brandon Flowers – Flamingo (Deluxe Edition)

 

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Brandon Flowers – Flamingo (Deluxe Edition)

Anno: 2010

 

Owing to their Vegas roots, the Killers have always flirted with the idea of being a casino band, but on his solo debut singer Brandon Flowers drowns in gambling metaphor.  Flowers opens the album with “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,” where he takes in the huddled masses with the intent of fleecing them all.  “Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts” isn’t as blatant, though the references to rolling dice and playing cards paint the walls throughout this dancing romance.  The album’s best storytelling is on a dopey country tune titled “The Clock Was Tickin’” which chronicles the down and out life of a Vegas dreg with forgiving scope.

Yet Flowers advances this formula one step further and injects this Sin City story with a healthy dose of the Lord.  While this factor could send the album into a preachy quagmire, the storytelling on most of these songs is often an advantage.  A few of the lordy tracks are lackluster, the most obvious being the album’s closer, “Right Behind You.”  Musically it’s a sad and pretty work of electropop; lyrically it plays out like the “Footprints” fable.  Yet “Playing with Fire” – easily the album’s best track – is a gorgeously sparse track bearing the imagery of Christ out in the desert.  Similarly gripping, “On the Floor” plays out like a vice spiritual featuring animals out of Aesop’s Fables.

Though it’s not as immediately exciting as the Killers’ work, Flamingo is Flowers’ bold, and perhaps inevitable, break from its dance rock style.  It’s also his best work since that band’s debut.

The Designer’s Drugs: Killola – Let’s Get Associated

 

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Killola – Let’s Get Associated

Anno: 2010

 

What one will get out of this album depends on where one starts.  The titles which seemingly demand first play are the dirty pop tunes “She’s a Bitch” and “I Wanna See Your Dick.”  I advise avoiding the impulse to start here.  There’s plenty of good work on Let’s Get Associated, but when vocalist Lisa Rieffel tries to come off as a drawling tramp, the whole song suffers.

Killola is at its best when it keeps its pop sensibilities firmly contained within rock structures.  The best examples of this superior approach come in the album’s snarling opener, “Mid-Day Rebel,” and “The Doctor and His Son,” a fast-paced dance tune reminiscent of Aimee Echo and TheSTART.  Rieffel’s vocals are much better in these two, but her best contributions happen in the tracks in which Killola takes things down a notch, particularly in the stately march of “Nothing Man.”

Let’s Get Associated is at times guilty of trying too hard to be cool (and it should be noted that the track “Gimme, Gimme” appropriates bursts of the Tetris theme in such an attempt).  Yet when the shots at manufacturing street cred wear out, what’s left is a quite competent album and a vocalist who can hold her own with any others in the pop-rock genre.  I’d like to hear more of that confidence.