Brandon Flowers has never got the respect he deserved. People seem genuinely perplexed why a clean-living Mormon from Las Vegas would have the audacity to declare that he wanted to lead the biggest band in the world.
Attacking a frontman for ambition and speaking out seems a bizarre approach - particularly if the alternative is Chilli Jenson admiting that Palma Violets are deeply average. Flowers is the rare rock frontman who openly admits he wants to play stadia and be heard on the radio. He achieved his aim to make The Killers one of the biggest bands on the planet (albeit perhaps not 'the best band of the past 15 years'). His second solo album has something different to prove - that he can cut it away from Ronnie, Dave and Mark? Sure 2010's Flamingo had it's interesting moments, but The Desired Effect needed to be so much more.
Thankfully, Flowers has achieved everything he wanted and more. Teaming up with producer Ariel Rechtshaid seems to have been a masterstroke. They apparently clashed during the recording process but that friction has resulted in a collection of ten striking songs. Rechsthaid's twin catchphrases - "That's not good enough" or "Shit is hot" - seem to have worked wonders on The Killers' frontman.
The opener ‘Dreams Come True’ is pure horn-led bombast, backed by the faintest hint of Paul Simon-era Graceland. There is also a rare joy to having the feeling of leaving your sleeping partner to go to work: ‘Punch the clock / Baby on the nightstand / You close your eyes / Waiting for the sandman’.‘Can’t Deny My Love’ appears timeless already thanks to a little slap bass and a whole heap of heartbreak while the thematically similar 'Still Want You' is a funky alt-disco declaration of undying devotion.
Single 'I Can Change', reportedly introduced after label pressure to appear on an EDM record is supremely Eighties (complete with a Bronski Beat sample and a guest contribution from Neil Tennant via voicemail). It sounds like it should have been given away as a cover-mounted cassette on a copy of The Face.
There's so much to enjoy. 'Lonely Town' is chugging alt-pop with killer choruses about a potentially lethal fairground ride - it could easily have been a Killers' song. 'Between Your Love' feels like a Springsteen synth track, purpose built for soundtracking late night cab rides home. 'Never Get You Right' is the sort of track that only Flowers can pull off: emotionally intense, lyrically non-specific, had it been released on Battle Born it would have been the lead single.
There are a couple of missteps. 'Diggin Up The Heart' may rival Azealia Banks' 'Nude Beach A Go-Go' as the most unnecessary musical throwback. Also 'The Way It's Always Been' is a bit of a damp squib of a conclusion - it's the sort of "slow bummer jam" that you would have benefitted from someone like E from Eels singing it.
However, these are minor concerns. The Desired Effect is light years ahead of Flowers’ solo debut Flamingo and arguably the best thing Flowers has recorded in over a decade. It doesn't look like this is the end of The Killers, but Flowers can rest easy now that he knows he has proven himself on his own terms. The Desired Effect shows that he's capable of standing out on his own - and that he's more than capable of living up to his own hyperbole.
Flowers kicks off his massive European tour this week which will see him stopping off for two nights at London's Brixton Academy with support from Joywave. Full dates are below. For tickets and more information, visit here.
Brandon Flowers will play:
May 21, 2015 - O2 Academy Brixton - London
May 22, 2015 - O2 Academy Brixton - London
May 24, 2015 - Academy- Manchester
May 25, 2015 - Usher Hall - Edinburgh
May 26, 2015 - O2 Academy - Leeds
May 28, 2015 - O2 Academy - Birmingham