January 25, 2019 Keuning – Prismism (Album Review)
Inevitably, the vocalist tends to be a band’s most popular member. Fair enough; he serves as the outfit’s frontman and default spokesperson. Because of this, vocalists are more often than not the first ones to embark on releasing solo albums as a sort of an escape from the routine grind of their respective bands. This excursion could also be a way to expand their horizons, especially that they may feel some musical ideas of theirs do not fit well into the ethos of the bands that they are in.
For instance, Vocalist Brandon Flowers was the first one from the American band The Killers to pursue a solo career, releasing two albums under his name so far—2010’s Flamingo and 2015’s The Desired Effect. Next was Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr., who got involved in the side project Big Talk, which unleashed two full-lengths—2011’s self-titled and 2015’s Straight in No Kissin’. Then, Bassist Mark Stoermer, who has three solo albums under his belt—2011’s Another Life, 2016’s Dark Arts, 2017’s Filthy Apes and Lions. Finally, Guitarist Dave Keuning is last but not the least. He ultimately decided to treat his fans with his debut offering.
Out Friday, January 25, 2019, on Pretty Faithful Records, under his surname, Keuning’s first solo album is titled Prismism. It opens with the bright and cheery note of “Boat Accident,” whose synth-laden New Wave sensibilities validate Keuning’s pivotal contributions to his erstwhile band’s music. The New Wave connoisseur will definitely hear traces of The Moody Blues (“Your Wildest Dreams”), The Cars (“Just What I Needed”), Phil Oakey & Giorgio Moroder (“Together in Electric Dreams”), Echo & the Bunnymen (“Seven Seas”), and Presence (“Act of Faith”).
Keuning turns dramatic and New Romantic with the ensuing sugar-rush, mid-tempo “The Night.” The sonic landscape then expands some more with the sparse, kaleidoscopic instrumentation of “The Queen’s Finest”—Prismism’s remarkable carrier single—very fine, indeed. Then there is the angular “I Ruined You,” which harks to the early sound of The Killers; it has obvious elements of “Somebody Told Me,” “Smile like You Mean It,” and “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.” After all, according to Keuning himself, most of the songs in Prismism were “taken from hundreds of voice memos that he stockpiled while on tour with The Killers over the last decade that evolved into songs.”
Keuning then takes the listener to another nostalgic trip with the soulful, minimal undulation of “Ruptured,” which may be regarded as an Alternative lullaby, in the vein of U2’s “With or Without You” and The Las’ “There She Goes.” Following next is “If You Say So”—a seeming homage to obscure The Cure (“The Exploding Boy”) and New Order (“Regret”)—after all, two of the often-cited influences of The Killers. Post-Punk New Wave at its best!
The title track is where Keuning gets playful and experimental, delving into Kraftwerkian Synthpop. Worthy of becoming a future classic, “Restless Legs” is alluring with its soulful rhythm, jangly guitars, synthbass thumps, and funky tendencies. By this point, Keuning is on the roll! Pure melodic bliss! Enough texture and great aural balance—that is the angular beauty of “Pretty Faithful.” Then there is the uplifting Sophistipop of “High Places,” which may remind the initiated of The Escape Club’s “I’ll Be There.” Keuning lets loose with his guitar with the simplistic buildup of “Broken Clocks.”
The short acoustic–guitar ballad “Gimme Your Heart” is certainly a standout because of its subtle instrumentation. The penultimate track, “Stuck Here on Earth” then plucks in ominously, reverberating its dark ambiance and lyrical desperation. Finally, Keuning finishes his solo masterpiece with “Hope and Safety”—another acoustic excursion that aptly emphasizes the multifaceted character of his music.
Keuning may have been the last among his bandmates to release original materials for a solo outing, but the result—Prismism—was indeed a revelation. It not only validates and clarifies Keuning’s pivotal contribution to the music of his erstwhile band The Killers; it also displayed his being an effective multi-instrumentalist, playing everything at the studio, apart from some drum parts.
If Flowers was the Synthpop, then Keuning was the Post-Punk! After listening to Prismism, one could only lament the fact that he is at the moment not a touring member of The Killers. In any case, there is Prismism to cherish and delve into, which is also a cause to crave for something more from Keuning and his prismatic musical mind. Cryptic Rock gives Prismism 5 out of 5 stars.