Friday, 26 March 2010

2002 Westlife: Unbreakable

We're now on westlife's eleventh number one should anybody be counting (I confess I wasn't). Eleven number ones....I mean, there have been a few I know, but I wouldn't have said that they'd reached double figures until I just counted them myself this evening. And, on counting, I was surprised too at how many I'd actually forgotten already. Not just the songs but the titles have left my mind too - in fact, Westlife's hits have blurred into an amorphous cumulus cloud of sound that my mind seems broadly able to split into two between the powerful love ballad-y ones and 'Uptown Girl'.

Which kind of implies that the longer they've gone on, the more re-cycling has been undertaken too. Nothing wrong with recycling per se and I can live with that to an extent; after all, the same criticisms have long since been levelled at AC/DC, a band who no-one could accuse of being too inventive and unpredictable. As a long standing fan though, the fact I know what I'm going to get doesn't stop me looking out for it whenever they release something new (which, alas, is far too infrequently these days). But that's because even after all these years, Angus and the gang still burn with a spiky fire that can get me running around a room waving my arms in the air (well mentally at least). Westlife, on the other hand, leave me woozy with the somnambulistic hangover of a week of sleepless nights.

'Unbreakable' falls in the 'powerful love ballad-y' camp and again bucks no trends - a strummed acoustic intro leads into another staircase climb of screw turning intensity as the lads declare their eternal love in ever more earnest pronouncements. Only this time there is a slight difference, this time the love and power might still be there in spades, but the ballad-y component has taken something of a back seat; 'Unbreakable' is a less an actual song and more a string of bludgeoning statements ("Swept away on a wave of emotion, overcaught in the eye of the storm") that rely more on force of will than anything as trite as a melody to get their point across.

In fact, 'Unbreakable' doesn't have much of a tune at all, nothing that resolves itself in the traditional way anyway, but while it would be nice to report that Westlife had gone atonal or were dabbling in twelve-tone period, they're not. What they are doing is turning a blind eye to pretend that there's a song somewhere underneath the storm that links together what would otherwise be five blokes shouting in random statements in harmony. Just when you think the wheels have to come off and the game has been rumbled, a monster key change at 3:40 pushes them to shout even louder until all the cracks have been thoroughly papered over by their wild eyed pledges that extend from this world to the next ("This love is unbreakable, through fire and flame. When all this is over, our love still remains") that get their own way through bullying the listener with chest beating force and aural violence into a mute acceptance of what they have to say . Well it may work for some, but it's falling on deaf ears here - 'Unbreakable' plays out like a sequel too far, a 'Beverly Hills Cop 3', a 'Police Academy: Mission to Moscow' or a 'Rambo 4', something half baked, half finished and half arsed, content to rely on the strength of the brand and past glories to sell itself rather than making any worthwhile statement itself other than heralding its own existence.

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