As frontman for the Killers, Brandon Flowers is best when he projects an air of boredom with his own sleaze. He’s not the most charismatic of singers, but he’s able to strike an effective ironic pose, suggesting that his disaffect runs so deep that he’s even over himself. The moments that work on Flamingo, Flowers’s solo debut, are those in which he puts that particular skill to good use. Unfortunately, Flowers also has a predilection for dour, self-serious songs that poorly ape Bruce Springsteen, and those types of ponderous tracks comprise at least half of the album.
Opener “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” aims for profundity with its cries of “hosanna” and platitudes like “Didn’t nobody tell you/The house will always win,” but the song’s narrative lacks any specificity. Compared to, say, Sheryl Crow’s “Leaving Las Vegas,” Flowers’s song simply doesn’t resonate. “The Clock Was Tickin’” fares even worse: Flowers spends three minutes talk-singing his way through a condescending country-western recitation, only to try to pull off a sincere coda that mourns for the song’s protagonist. It doesn’t work at all. “The Clock Was Tickin’” is the farthest that Flowers strays from his comfort zone on Flamingo, but it’s a complete non-starter of an experiment.
“Right Behind You,” “Only the Young,” and the overly long “Playing with Fire” aren’t terribly removed from the protracted mope of the Killers’s Sam’s Town in terms of their lyrics, but the songs here lack the sonic punch and strong melodies of that record. When he leans more heavily on the ‘80s-era flash of his band’s debut, the results are far better. “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts” recalls the standout singles from Hot Fuss, while there’s a likable, wry brattiness to both the narrative and Flowers’s delivery on “Was It Something I Said.” Either of those tracks or the forceful kiss-off “I Came Here to Get Over You” would have made for far better choices for lead single than the meandering “Crossfire.” Flamingo makes a pretty strong case that Flowers doesn’t have the best grasp of what it is he does well.