I'm starting to view the seemingly endless procession of Westlife number ones with, if not exactly dread, but with the same weary resignation that Mickey Mouse came to greet the endless procession of magical brooms he'd conjured up in Fantasia - suffice it to say that I greet these things with a heavy heart. And that's largely because I know what to expect before the needle hits the groove (or the laser reads the digital data off the optical surface). That's not a criticism per se - I kind of know what I'm going to get whenever I buy the latest album from The Fall album unheard too (which I'm wont to do). The difference there though is that I like The Fall and feel they're speaking my language. There's a direct Wi-Fi connection in our band/listener relationship that's simply not there with the latest Westlife output. On both counts.
But to criticise them solely on these grounds is not really logical because the criticism also generates its own defence; Westlife aren't speaking to me, don't pretend to be and most of my dislike stems from my inability to penetrate that invisible barrier that exists between us for whatever reason, and so unless I want to look like a clueless old fart maybe I'd best keep my gob shut. Maybe, but that's not satisfactory either - the difference as I see it is that I found The Fall myself; they didn't come looking for me. Mark E Smith and the ever shifting line-up that back him up might be something of an acquired taste, but they're a non-exclusive club that will have anyone as a member (and if you don't want to join then you can take a walk - Smith won't miss you).
I'm using The Fall as a recurring example here for the sake of convenience - there are any number of acts I equally adore who would fit the agenda just as well. That is, artists who plug away for no apparent reward other than the joy of making music. Everyone is welcome. Westlife, on the other hand, have a set demographic in mind and they go after it with the accuracy of a cruise missile primed for maximum impact and me and my kind are purposely excluded from the blast radius. Oh if I want to like it then fine, it's no skin off their nose; my money is as good as anyone else's, but my patronage is neither expected, wanted or needed. Similarly, me telling the world I was a fan of Westlife would in no way be 'cool', 'hip' or 'down with the kids'. In fact, a middle aged bloke (such as myself) carrying a copy of the latest Westlife album would be...well, just a bit creepy, almost the latter day equivalent of going out armed with the dirty mac and pocket full of sweets that were the supposed trademarks of the 'bad men' of my childhood out to lure me into the bushes to see some non existent puppies.
So it's just as well that I'm not much of a fan really then, but that leads me back to my opening dilemma - after all the dust has settled, there's a song here that needs a word or two said about it. And so I'll crack on, even though I already know before I start that it's going to sound much like the previous eight - that is, a professional job with a hummable tune that, whilst not irritating me enough to hate it will nevertheless run over me without trace like water on glass. "World Of Our Own" gives credence to my earlier suggestion that Westlife are the Benjamin Button of boybands; after earlier singles of fist clenching angst, their output has gradually mellowed to let in more gas from the pop bottle and "World Of Our Own" is their most unpretentiously direct single to date.
That's not to say that they've stopped trying - "World Of Our Own" comes boxfresh and as chrome shiny as the lift the boys are standing in on the cover. There's a clipped, dance friendly bassline that never delves into funk enough to overshadow the wrecking ball swing of the chorus. There's a New Order style guitar riff in there that adds, if hardly an indie edge, at least an edge that Westlife have never shown before and a simple key change at 2:30 gives it fresh legs just as it was flagging from running on its own treadmill. Simple and effective, "World Of Our Own" is a professional job with a hummable tune that, while not irritating me enough to be able to hate it nevertheless runs over me without trace like water on glass. And yes I know I've already said that, but if Westlife can repeat themselves then I can too.