Fifteen years in, Brandon Flowers continues to write music that sounds ripped from the days of Bruce Springsteen and U2. His songwriting with The Killers and as a solo artist is a mishmash of the ’80s and ’90s with lyrics begging to be worthy of the next Americana torch song. British comedian Bill Bailey once riffed on The Killers’ cheesy lyric “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier,” saying it’s as meaningful as “I got ham, but I’m not a hamster.” Similar cheese is on display in spades on Flowers’ sophomore solo album The Desired Effect, which sees Flowers give in completely to his ’80s pop tendencies and hold nothing back – not the echoey drum fills, glossy synths or random pitch wavering – for what proves to be his best work since Day & Age.

Flowers’ blue-collar Americana hits you square in the chest on stadium-worthy opener “Dreams Come True.” Given the gist of the lyrics and Flowers’ vocal inflection, you could call it a follow-up to John Mellencamp’s “Jack And Diane.” His voice, as crisp as ever, is met with big band brass on the track’s equally big chorus. “Diggin’ Up The Heart,” though, goes a bit too far, somehow blending rockabilly and twinkling synths around a slice of life tale. The melody itself is another catchy Flowers creation, but the sonic juxtaposition grates by the final fade out. “Lonely Town” is more successful in that regard. Low-key electropop reminiscent of The Police meets synth blips, random Auto-Tuned vocals and gospel choirs. Those big brass lines pop up again and Flowers’ mellow vocals sing about the loneliness of being the one kid who didn’t move away from his tiny hometown.

Prior to The Desired Effect‘s release, Flowers claimed that every track was hit-worthy. Honestly, he was not exaggerating, especially if the year were still 1986. ’80s production gimmicks and powerful hooks make for one triumphant pop fix after another. Lead single “Can’t Deny My Love” channels Sting by way of Duran Duran with a little Pet Shop Boys thrown in for good measure. Neil Tennant, one half of the Pet Shop Boys, even contributed backup vocals. Wooden pan flutes and electronic drum pads meet disco for a booming mix. Flowers’ throwbacks veer into the realm of slower ballads as well. “Never Get You Right” is a stalker-ish ode, possibly to a sex worker, that goes easier on the blasting drums and synths. Flowers’ vocal range then has the chance to take center stage, from measured verses to the exultant chorus.

Timid piano keys lead into “I Can Change,” which samples Bronski Beat’s 1984 club classic “Smalltown Boy.” I guess by looping that song’s refrain, Flowers thought he would drum up some emotion by osmosis. His flat lyrics just pad the track for its four minutes. But Flowers shows much better range with the likes of “Still Want You” and “The Way It’s Always Been,” the former is a calypso-reggae track that oozes joy. It also may be the only love song to mention climate change and rising crime. “The Way It’s Always Been,” like “Between Me and You,” doesn’t make a big impression initially but shows some restraint in Flowers’ emotional high-laden songwriting.

Depending on your stance, the abundance of ideas on this album may be its saving grace or its downfall. Do you want “forward-looking music”? Where is your line between homage and impersonation? Flowers has compiled a good 40-minutes of music that could easily be straight off the ’80s charts: lost tracks from Springsteen’s Born in the USA, breathless additions to Duran Duran’s Notorious. Huge hooks hit you left and right. It would be impossible not to fist-pump right along with Flowers to these glitzy anthems. The Desired Effect is stacked with irresistible pop, but, taking in the album as a whole in one sitting, this crescendo upon crescendo layout not only wears listeners raw but dwarfs tracks that are just as deserving of being hit singles. If wearing out your audience was the desired effect, Flowers has definitely succeeded.

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