Sunday December 8, 2019

Album Reviews: Westlife back in the big time

24th November, 2019
4

POP

Westlife

Spectrum (Virgin EMI)

There’s no denying that the Irish man-band are a unit-shifting pop phenomenon, and even if Spectrum, their first new album in nine years, were filled with identikit syrupy ballads, it would still sell by the lorryload. Instead, however, they’ve hired a host of hit-makers to write 11 shiny new songs, with Ed Sheeran having a co-writing credit on no fewer than five tracks, while award-winning producer Steve Mac lends his Midas touch to nine, and even James Bay contributes to two. For all the heavyweight songwriters, however, many of these songs drag their heels in the cliché mire. Break-up ballad One Last Time has the kind of descending minor chord sequence that’s like pushing the ‘extra melancholy’ button, while Repair and Take Me There brim over with more melodrama than an EastEnders omnibus. The worst offender, however, is Without You, where the subject of the song is described as “my endless night”, surely not a compliment unless you’re an undead soul-stealer. On the plus side, Hello, My Love and Dynamite are pop gold, containing stadium-friendly, soaring, arms-in-the-air choruses, with enough key changes to keep audiences alert, while the staccato synths of Dance and L.O.V.E. have just about enough going for them to keep you on side.

2.5/5

JW

Download: Hello, My Love

SINGER-SONGWRITER

Leonard Cohen

Thanks For The Dance (Sony Music Legacy)

Longtime fans of Leonard Cohen (this writer is guilty and proud) will take some comfort from Thanks For The Dance, the songwriter’s posthumous album produced and presided over by his son, Adam. Recorded while Cohen senior was, quite literally, on his back with not much time left, and with a microphone and pages of his poetry beside him, the end results are so much better than we could have expected. Enveloping his father’s remarkably incisive and witty lines – words that deftly fuse the spirit with the flesh – Cohen junior has added musical accompaniment from the likes of Beck, Damien Rice, members of The National and Arcade Fire, and longtime associates such as Jennifer Warnes. With his father’s virtually subterranean voice as central to the songs as it has always been (albeit clearly more fatalistic), Adam’s work inevitably takes on a deeper meaning. The core, however, remains resolutely humble and tender, and delivers as fitting a farewell as one could ever want. Can someone please pass the paper hankies? Something’s in my eye.

4/5

Tony Clayton-Lea

Download: The Hills

INDIE POP

Coldplay

Everyday Life (Warner Music)

Is anyone interested in a double concept album from anyone any more, let alone from Coldplay? Divided into two sections, Sunrise and Sunset, the album arrives four years after A Head Full Of Dreams, and clearly the band want to not only impress but also to steer clear of previous habits that were in danger of dragging them down a hole from which they might not escape. The latter stance is exemplified by a noted experimental edge – tracks such as Church, Arabesque, Broken, When I Need A Friend, Orphans and Bani Adam draw influences from world music, gospel, spiritual jazz and, yes, Persian poetry – while songs such as Sunrise, Daddy, and Cry Cry Cry distance the band from familiar dramatic sweeps. As a collection of segued songs (whatever about the concept, the meaning of which appears to be the geopolitical/personal), it hangs together well, mixing recognisable tropes with a cultured and appropriate sense of exploration. By all accounts, a more mainstream pop album will be released next year, just in time for arena shows. Coldplay business as usual, then. Everyday Life, however, is Coldplay less ordinary, and it is mostly very good indeed.

3.5/5

Tony Clayton-Lea

Download: Champions Of The World

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