Album Review: Brandon Flowers - 'The Desired Effect'

The day-glow Vegas fantasies pouring out of Brandon Flowers' new solo album "The Desired Effect" aren't exactly a new thing for the established songwriter.

Ever since The Killers' 2004 debut "Hot Fuss," Flowers has been unafraid to come off as campy or overdramatic.

While "Hot Fuss" hit at a perfect time when The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines and other "The" bands were all the rage, it was obvious that Flowers didn't share their same affinity for lo-fi, back-to-basics garage rock.

So since the beginning of his career, Brandon Flowers has been eyeing the big time. The second Killers album (2006's Sam's Town) took them there: with a wide-screen take on Springsteen's super-earnest coming-of-age rock and roll, Flowers was now the leader of the pack.

His matinee idol looks and his wordy, cerebral songs helped make The Killers a household name by the end of the decade.

His first solo album (Flamingo) was so bloated with pomp and circumstance it stands as the work of a man a little too confident. It was over-long and over-stretched, once again mining the same Vegas concept but without the melodies of his best work.

Only "Magdelena," a powerful anthem with an underlying Christian theme, stood out.

So as The Killers are once again on hiatus, Brandon Flowers returns in 2015 with "The Desired Effect." The throwback, Let's Dance-era album cover sets the tone for the music on the record. Seemingly beamed from 1986, Flowers has now hit the breaking point with his glitzy 80s obsession.

Collaborating with pop producer of the moment Ariel Rechtshaid (Beyonce, Usher), none of the songs on this album "rock," as he has removed the Springsteen from his sound and replaced it with Madonna, Nile Rodgers, David Bowie and even 80s teen pop like Neneh Cherry.

"The Desired Effect" puts the listener back to a point of time where both cocaine and Reaganism seemed harmless.

Album opener "Dreams Come True" announced it's presence with blaring horns and more American dream sentimentality. It sounds like it would have fit perfectly as a Nasa space program anthem.

"I Can Change" benefits from a spoken-word voice mail from Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant and it's a perfect fit with its dark, Chicago house vibe.

"Still Want You" careens nicely on a vibraphone riff with an ultra-catchy verse and a chorus worthy of peak-era J. Geils Band.

The standout cut is "Diggin' Up The Heart." A live rendition has been floating around the internet for months but the studio version ups the ante considerably. A perfect encapsulation of the "Me" generation, "Diggin' Up The Heart" hits you hard with its beautiful mash-up of Dire Straits, The Cars and E.L.O. without at all coming off as a copy. Chintzy keyboards brush up against rockabilly guitar and horn blasts while the melody is an instant ear worm.

Brandon's vocals have never sounded better. "Her name was Christy, Queen of Humboldt County" he sighs absolutely oozing with charisma. The song conjures feelings of a carefree afternoon at the water park.

The Desired Effect never quite hits that height again and the album certainly paints Flowers into a corner. His next move will have to be a complete about-face, as there is no room for him to keep pillaging the mid 80s. Maybe a back-to-basics approach would be his best-bet to follow up this gaudy party-starter of a record.

The songs hit the mark and bring the listener back to a completely different era where people were more engaged by each other and not their cell phones.

So in a way the album taps into an innocence we lost a long time ago. The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers gets Four Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

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For more on Brandon Flowers: http://brandonflowersmusic.com