Monday, May 3, 2010

The Brandon Flowers Solo Project

I have now had a few days to process the announcement last week that Brandon Flowers would be branching out from his fellow Killers bandmates to embark on his own solo project. I couldn’t believe how shocked I felt to hear news that was not in the least bit shocking. A solo album comes as no surprise; fans and journalists have been speculating this move for months. I recall a fantastic interview Flowers gave Jonathon Ross last year when the Killers performed on his show. The lone awkward moment of the interview came when Ross questioned Flowers about the Killers songwriting process. Following Flowers reply (that he writes all of the lyrics and all band members write the music), Ross said “So, you really could go it alone quite easily.” It was a fairly lighthearted moment, but an uncomfortable shrug from Flowers and a camera shot of the rest of the band sitting backstage was all the foreshadowing I needed to tell me that a solo announcement was in the near future.

What threw me for a loop was the anticipation and build up to the announcement. Following a 4-day countdown clock on the Killers’ website- during which time the fan community hoped and speculated on the possible release of Killers B-sides, rarities, live recordings, or cover songs- the news of a solo project seemed bittersweet to those who recognize a delicate balance that all four members strike together. But what fans were hoping for was another taste of what we have already had, and knew we loved – perhaps outtakes from the Day & Age album or more live recordings from that tour. For me, the shock came because my mindset was stuck in the past, but as I should well know by now, the Killers don’t do the past. They embrace change with each new project and they always move forward. The hiatus announcement that came months ago should have officially closed the most recent chapter in the Killers book, but really, it took the Flowers solo announcement to bring that reality home.

Any apprehension I have about a Flowers solo project goes back to the band member balance I mentioned. Although guitarist Dave Keuning seems (almost) on par with Flowers in terms of flamboyance and ambition, I’ve always had the feeling that Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci and bassist Mark Stoermer are musically, and possibly also in band promotion, a grounding force for Flowers. They not only provide a masculine balance to the gold-lame-feather-wearing faction of the band, I would not be surprised if they are also the force that reins the band in when the threat of overexposure looms. Musically speaking, Vannucci and Stoermer keep Flowers firmly planted in the rock and roll genre. Without the weight of the Killers heavy rhythm section to ground him, I suspect that his solo style will float off into synth-y Pet Shop Boys land.

As much as I will miss not hearing the other band members on this project, I really am excited about any new material that Brandon Flowers gives us. The thing I find most endearing about him as an artist is his earnest, ongoing effort to be excellent at the two things that do not seem inherently easy for him: writing lyrics and stage performing. From the very first album, he has shown flashes of genius in his ability to write great lyrics, and over the years he has demonstrated increasing consistency in doing such. Flowers is a student of the game, both as a songwriter and a performer, taking cues from the greats and styling them to be uniquely his own. His continuous evolution at both tasks gets to the heart of the tremendous devotion of his fans. The conviction and vulnerability he brings to his music makes him wholly relatable. With each album we watch him become more skilled and comfortable in his songwriting and performing roles, fans feel invested in his journey, and we root for his success.

When I first heard the name of Flowers solo album - “Flamingo” – I questioned, not for the first time, his heterosexuality. It turns out that Las Vegan mythology may have lent itself to the name of the album. An insightful blog post by a Killers acquaintance and fellow Las Vegan Rodney Pardey (aka Michael Valentine), explains the significance of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas mythical history and provides a theory for the album title. To summarize (really, you should check out the whole article), the Flamingo was the first Hollywood-style glitz and glam hotel in Vegas. It was a break from the modest, dusty establishments of Wild West Vegas, meant to attract glamour and money from Los Angeles visitors. If within Brandon Flowers resides dichotomous Vegas personalities, then Sam’s Town (the Killers sophomore album) and Flamingo may just be the artistic representations of those personalities. Sam’s Town is the working class, dust under the fingernails Vegas, and Flamingo is the spare-no-expense, extravagant sequined personality. Pardey’s article also points out that the Flamingo was built miles from the Downtown center on a stretch of a lonely highway- possibly significant to the album name as representing the lone break for Flowers from the rest of the band on this project.

Everything that Brandon Flowers creates is well crafted with attention to detail, hometown sentimentality, and purposeful rock and roll myth building. It is exciting that fans will soon see the next phase in a fascinating music career. Flamingo does not yet have a release date, but with any luck, we’ll have a Killer back on tour by summer!

-AZ

13 comments:

  1. Wow...this is a great article!!
    I am a Killers' fan and this very well summarizes my feelings towards Brandon's solo project!
    i'm glad i found your blog...it seems we share musical tastes and i can't wait to read more! :)
    Chia

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  2. Wow...this is a great article!!
    I am a Killers' fan and this very well summarizes my feelings towards Brandon's solo project!
    i'm glad i found your blog...it seems we share musical tastes and i can't wait to read more! :)
    Chia

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  3. This is a wonderful article! You have described Brandon very well, and as a big Killers fan, it makes me happy to read some of these things. :)

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  4. What an excellent article. You are a fantastic writer and you captured Brandon extremely well. I loved this part, "With each album we watch him become more skilled and comfortable in his songwriting and performing roles, fans feel invested in his journey, and we root for his success."

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  5. Thanks for this great article. Brandon's solo adventure sounds quite exciting!!! But I am still looking forward to the Killers Covers album, and really hope that the projected 2 year hiatus is much less than expected. The world is always a more beautiful and wonderful when they are doing their magic.

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  6. gosh, i almost cried after reading this! great piece! i'm anxiously waiting to get flamingo and maybe seeing a "killer on the road" (as another talented songwriter--jim morrison--would say).

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  7. This article is absolutely perfect, I love the Killers, I was concerned at first about his solo projects, now I have warmed to the ideal, Brandon has so much going for him, intelligent, handsome, super talented and mature for his years, he has charisma and personality in abundance, he is unique in both sound and style, I love him, if he should do a solo tour, I will be there, supporting him.
    The lyrics he writes are among some of the best I have ever read, very surreal and deep, very true, the Killers are almost all I listen to, I throw myself into the songs, you can almost feel where Brandon is coming from when you listen to them.
    I would love to see him do a collaboration with my other older hero, Neil Diamond, that would be profoundly amazing'
    I now eager await the release of Flamingo, it is a foregone conclusion that I will love it.
    He deserves all the happiness he gets,he is ace.

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  9. Thanks you all for the thoughtful comments. The previous comment by 'x1fm' was removed because it was an advertisement unrelated to the post.

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  10. beautiful article!!! I wish Brandon all the best.

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  12. very good article indeed :)
    after all - and I must say I totally agree with you in all what you write - I still am sad because the killers don't sing anymore together. I love them like they are (I don't dare to say like they was!), even it's obviously that brandon is the "magnet"! :)) but I have a deep, strong feeling that dave was writing a lot of their songs, hope to get wrong myself!

    a Romanian fan of tK

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