With 'Fool Again', Westlife notch up their fifth consecutive number one and in so doing wrote a fresh chapter in the record books. An impressive statistic on paper, but dig a little deeper and you'll find that as of 2011, it has managed to sell 215,000 copies, a grand total that does not compare favourably with (to take a random sample) Slade's 'Cum On Feel The Noize' that debuted at number one in 1973 after selling half a million copies in the first three weeks. But whatever.
Given the fist clenching angst of their previous four singles, a title like 'Fool Again' sets the scene nicely for tragedy and heartbreak on an operatic scale, but for once Westlife wrong foot me by stepping back from the brink by instead peddling four minutes of polite pop that could be the work of almost any other contemporary boy band. And by toning it down, Westlife not only deny me the chance to stick my usual knife in, but also deny the song itself any essence of substance or memorability, of which 'Fool Again' has neither. What really irritates is the boy's grinning and flirting with the camera on the video when they're meant to be delivering the heartbreak of "Can't believe that I'm the fool again, I thought this love would never end", a cynical ploy that covers all lovestruck bases which, to paraphrase Aneurin Bevan, meant they were wearing a crown of thorns and taking the thirty pieces of silver,* though the biggest irritation is that they were preaching to an audience so bewitched that they let them get away with it.
* Though he wasn't talking about the new Westlife single when he said it. Obviously.