Have you ever wanted something so badly you would stop at nothing to get? Some holy grail that haunts your heart and mind, driving you to obsess over it until you can hold it in your hands? Brandon Flowers knows that feeling well, because he desperately wants to be our Springsteen. I say “our” Springsteen in a wide sense that encompasses anyone under 40. After suffering through the painful solo debut Flamingo, Flowers is at it again with The Desired Effect. He’s stripped out most of the country/western vibes of the first record and filled it with some Vampire Weekend-style beats (thanks to producer Ariel Reichstaid), which one listen can tell you is definitely not an improvement.
Flowers is one of the guys about whom I feel worst speaking negatively. I truly do love The Killers and don’t really care who knows it. Sam’s Town is a masterpiece of pop/rock, and I listen to it pretty often. Even the songs I don’t really care for, like “Bones,” are better than most. And he’s a great frontman for that kind of band. His voice emanates from the airwaves into your mind with ease, like he’s a long-lost friend waxing nostalgic about the good ol’ days (or as he’d put it, I’m sure, the GLORY DAYS).
He seems to think of himself as more of a lounge singer, stuck in those Las Vegas clubs he knew in his youth. In actuality he’s an arena rocking crooner-closer to Steve Perry than Springsteen. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. The Desired Effect is filled with tunes that probably could be pretty good in the right hands. Instead it’s a low key, auto-tuned garbage heap. Even Kongos is like “Hey dude, how many times are you gonna repeat the same formula?”
Fortunately this 10-track waste of everyone’s time is over fairly quick, and ends with what I think is its best track, “The Way It’s Always Been.” Somehow Flowers manages to pull off a kind of Dylan/Springsteen impression here with a timbre reminiscent of the songs on the master’s great 1975 album Desire. The simplicity discredits some of the earlier tracks reliance on drum machines and synths, making me wish the whole record had just been songs like this.
The album is officially out next week, but it’s streaming now for your listening pleasure (or not). Brandon is hitting Chicago at The Riviera Theatre on September 11th as part of his North American tour which begins July 24th. You can find all dates on The Killers website.