By now, channelling sounds from another era and successfully executing them using modern day influences and themes is both often-used and difficult to get right. However, in Brandon Flowers’ new album, The Desired Effect, The Killers frontman does just that, defying a simple rehash of the past by creating a collection of immaculate-sounding ’80s-inspired songs.
Featuring a host of big-name producers and musicians such as Danielle Haim (HAIM) and Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend), this collaborative effort draws from a time when bubblegum pop dominated the music scene. Incorporating synthesizers, echoing drums, and reverbed vocals, Flowers creates an effortless and surprisingly uplifting listen—a welcome departure from the dark and often mood-dampening sound of his previous effort, Flamingo (2010).
The lead single, “Can’t Deny My Love” borrows strongly from the Duran-Duran era, while “Lonely Town” is wonderfully reminiscent of ’80s dance-rock. “Still Want You” is a calypso-infused song that sees Flowers proclaiming his undying love amidst a world of “Climate change and debt [and] nuclear distress.” This reflective perspective runs throughout the entire album. “Never Get You Right” addresses the pressures of a normalized society, while album closer, “The Way It’s Always Been,” incorporates Flowers’ own Mormon beliefs and worrying about an unforeseen future: “You sink or you swim / and we’re just hoping that / He’s really got the power to save us from these sins.”
These darker moments are juxtaposed with more hopeful tracks such as the standout song, “Diggin’ Up the Heart,” which evokes images of a rather giddy cross-desert road trip with a Cadillac kicking up dust as it speeds down a lonely road. In a way, that image sums up the album perfectly—with the past in view and an unknown future, the only thing left to do is live for the enjoyment of living itself. And aside from a few moments of uninspired lyrics (see “Dreams Come True”) and a relatively slow second-half, The Desired Effect is a successful explosion of ’80s-sounds that bolster its happy-go-lucky mindset.