Reviewed by Daniel Serotsky
No one will be listening to The Desired Effect in a few years but that’s not to be taken as a diss, the truth is reverse. This album is like Black Lace after a slow dance, a welcome novelty indeed but to use an olde fashioned aphorism: not a disc that would pull its weight long-term in the car CD changer.
In a similar manner to how The Darkness summon the spectres of glam rock, Flowers busts out his Ouija board and gets busy like a centipede with a hundred little shot glasses, channelling every cheesy balladeer from thirty-sum years ago. If so inclined after sunset on a sullen Saturday, I’m convinced that this record would make for an uplifting game of ‘influence bingo’. A dab on Samantha Fox, a few dabs on Madonna, Bonnie Tyler, Kate Bush and a final dab on Dire Straits would have you blurting ‘line!’ in no time.
The Killers frontman chews up his creditors, blows a joyous pop bubble and lets it burst over us in lead single Can’t Deny My Love. From dramatic blasts of keys to synthy drumbeats, Flowers serves up a medley of ‘Like A Prayer’ and ‘Naughty Girls Need Love Too’. It was the right choice for a first single, the only track with any potential as a real radio hit. Perhaps I Can Change will be nudged forward due to its Bronski Beat sample but for me, it added little to the classic and you’ve got to do something bold when borrowing from an anthem.
The lyrics throughout the record are corny and kitschy, as so they should be, it only emphasises the much discussed 80s feel. I’d go one step further and say that the pop-iest songs on the album follow the pattern of a plethora of hits from female singers and girl groups, reinforcing the need for goofy lyrics to work the 80s concept, complete with overextended metaphor, overwrought imagery and cliché expressions that we wouldn’t put past dear old Bonnie.
While new wave nuances shackle the record, there’s definitely enough in here for old fans of The Killers not to feel miffed, they get their fix of Flowers’ storytelling with the familiar themes of being lost, crime, mystery popping up, and of course a bit of god pervades through too. The trademark tales are lyrically negligible as ever and won’t be discussed here but if they do set your dinghy adrift: they are there if you’d like to delve into them.
More interestingly on the album, I do hear glimmers of early Bob Dylan in lyric patterns but more noticeably a Johnny Cash influence in there too. Still Want You and Dreams Come True particularly reminded me of Cash’s sappy output like A Thing Called Love and some of the other pious junk he did with June Carter. Perhaps this (if I may) ‘Cash injection’ is Flowers’ input leaking through that synthetic plastic shell that hallmarks Ariel Rechtschaid productions.
A masterpiece? Nope. But an affectionate piece of fluff? Certainly. At a time when ‘synth-rock’ and lame 80s knock-offs are ten a penny, this could have been a real botch. Yet, I was genuinely buoyed by the album; this cheesy, brazen pastiche seems somewhat like a nice concept album but like any concept album, it certainly wouldn’t be advisable to replicate this style on the next one.
Recommended Song – Can’t Deny My Love