With The Killers on a break before a few festival dates and its fifth album, frontman and creative Mormon Brandon Flowers re-emerges with the lead single off his second solo album, The Desired Effect.
Gone are the eyeliner, beard and over-the-top matador jackets. In their place is a musician constantly tiptoeing the line between rockband credibility with the group that made him famous in the first place and pop sensibilities that seep out on his solo efforts.
Who better to join retro-leaning, funky yet indie acts on the radio like HAIM than the producer behind that band’s Falling (Ariel Rechtshaid) and the man with a fondness for Bowie, the Pet Shop Boys and 80s buzz synths?
Can’t Deny My Love begins with warm pad synths and no-nonsense percussion that go straight in, Flower’s vocals sound deliberately hesitant at first; after all, the song is about a love interest who doesn’t reciprocate his affection. The vocals gain more a lilt as Flowers accuses the other party of ‘living in the past’ and wonders ‘what’s going in (their) head?’ with breathy harmonies in the one-off pre-chorus.
The choruses pounce like a leopard, anchored by a propulsive ‘not gonna, not gonna deny, you’re not gonna deny my love’ hook soaking with the urgency and desperation of a lost man screaming from the hills. The subtle jolly piano, synth orchestra hits, funky bass slaps and constantly panning drums belie the musical arrangement’s sinister mood that hints at the unforgiving terrain of the Nevada desert close to where much of Flowers’ (and The Killers’) material is recorded.
The bridge stalks like a hunter with its eyes on its prey with its percussion and rolling bass. There are inevitable religious overtones (‘spoils of your mercy’, ‘reverence of your bed’) that reveal for much of a one-way street this love story is, particularly as Flowers wails in agony at the emotional peak as the final chorus launches. Is this real life or just art for the married Flowers?
The title of Can’t Deny My Love ironically doesn’t even appear until the track’s end, but listeners can’t deny that this is a fine pop tune suited for radio- as long as the long-winded outro gets chopped off.