The Desired Effect (Island)
Listeners can be forgiven for approaching Brandon Flowers’s sophomore solo album with fairly low expectations. After all, his band the Killers’ sense of self-importance has long since outweighed its ability to deliver a catchy hit, and the frontman’s 2010 solo debut, Flamingo, failed to yield anything as memorable as, say, “Mr. Brightside”.
It comes as a pleasant surprise, then, that The Desired Effect has a number of knockout pop tunes. The album was produced by hotly tipped studio guru Ariel Rechtshaid (whose credits include Beyoncé, Haim, and Vampire Weekend), and he helped Flowers to achieve a slick sound that fuses towering rock with slinky ’80s pop. Particularly infectious standouts include the thudding dance grooves of “I Can Change” and the giddy, horn-blasted soul of “Still Want You”. The latter cut resembles a global-warming-themed update on David Bowie’s “Modern Love”.
Elsewhere among these 10 tracks, opener “Dreams Come True” charges hard out of the gate with blaring brass hooks and fist-pumping choruses, the synth-draped melancholy of “Between Me and You” recalls Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. classic “I’m on Fire”, and “Diggin’ Up the Heart” is hip-waggling, synth-splashed rock ’n’ roll boogie.
Even though the last few numbers on this front-loaded album fail to pack much of a punch, The Desired Effect nevertheless contains some of the most radio-ready melodies we’ve heard from Flowers in a decade. If he was aiming to revitalize his reputation as one of the mainstream’s preeminent pop singers, this album ought to have, ahem, the desired effect.