Is Brandon Flowers New Album "The Desired Effect" THE SHIT Or Just Shit?

"I coulda been a GQ model!"
Back in the early 2000's, when I was still living in L.A., I used to make semi-frequent trips to Vegas. In doing so, I was constantly on the look out for cool record stores, rock clubs, and local bands that might be worth a look-see. After a decade of what can best be described as hilariously derivative nu-metal acts that all seemed to hold Fred Durst in high regard, one band emerged from the desert stench with something original to offer.

I know because I happened to catch this band on a Wednesday night at some here-today-gone-tomorrow theme club with inflatable palm trees and waitresses in butt-cheek revealing get-ups that, until said band hit the stage, was easily the most entertaining aspect of my night.

The name of the band was the Killers and, though their singer seemed to feel that the best way to avoid any potential pitch issues was to sing in a monotone, it was easy to see that they had a vision of their own; one where Duran Duran and Bowie and INXS were considered equals and melody was king.

I walked away thinking that their drummer Ronnie Vannucci was the best musician in the band, playing well enough to take the focus off of the singer's shortcomings. Did I expect to ever hear anything from them again? Not on your life. After all, I've seen bands absolutely kill in front of a room of industry heavyweights and still not get signed.

Less than a year later, though, "Somebody Told Me" began receiving heavy rotation adds on radio stations all across the country and a faint sense of familiarity washed over me until the on-air DJ informed listeners "That was new music from the Killers."

Holy shit, I thought.

Upon purchasing their debut album, Hot Fuss, at the local Tower Records, I found myself listening to little else for several weeks, nay, months. What impressed me about the album was how fully formed the band's sound was. First albums, for the most part, are merely a jumping off point for most bands. Sure, the Knacks and Cars of the pop world succeeded in creating debut albums that few others, much less they themselves, could top, but they were in the minority.

The success of the Killers ushered in a new era of melodic modern rock acts including the Bravery, Franz Ferdinand, and others, almost single-handedly killing off most of the "rap rock" acts that had turned the modern rock format into a virtual locker room of screaming and chest pumping.

For that alone, the Killers will always have my undying respect.

But could the band make a second album that could hold a candle to their first, I wondered? With the arrival of Sam's Town a couple years later, I finally had my answer: yes. And no.

See, while lead-off single "When You Were Young" is one of their best songs, tailor-made for sending stadium-sized crowds into a frenzy, the rest of the album sees Brandon Flowers reaching well beyond his natural talents in hopes of creating an album capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best U2 and Springsteen albums.

That may have been fine for some, but this reviewer is by no means a fan of Springsteen's music. I love the man, sure, but his music has always struck me as more Sha-Na-Na than anything. So it was with some disappointment that I watched the Killers work through this new phase, hoping that perhaps album #3 would see them get back on track.

Nine years and three albums (including Flowers' first solo effort), I was still waiting, so it was with some trepidation that I began listening to The Desired Effect.

Horn-driven "Dreams Come True" shows Flowers has yet to fully kick the Springsteen fixation, but if Springsteen recorded anything this joyous and memorable, it would be hailed as a massive return-to-form.

"I Can Change" is an ode to the classic '80s synth-pop of the Communards and Erasure, so, naturally, it features Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant. That's awesome, of course, but was Jimmy Somerville unavailable?

"Between Me And You" is the sleeper hit of the album, a slow-building ballad that features Tony Levin on "The Stick" (an instrument that is capable of both bass and guitar tonality) and Bruce Hornsby on piano. Yes, that Bruce Hornsby. It is the first song this reviewer has heard in almost a decade where Flowers finally sounds truly at home in his own musical skin.

"Never Get You Right" embraces an obvious So-era Peter Gabriel sonic territory that even Gabriel's recent music has been missing, Hornsby appears on this song, too, along with drummers Kenny Aronoff and Joey Waronker.

The Desired Effect is such a musical joy that by the time you reach the last tune, "The Way It's Always Been", you find yourself not wanting this album to end and that is good news for fans of the Killers who've been waiting for that feeling to return.

VERDICT: This album is THE SHIT.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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