Albums: New music from Westlife, Volbeat, Beans on Toast and Love Object
WESTLIFE – WILD DREAMS
IT WAS difficult not to feel happy for Westlife when their first album in nearly a decade, 2019's Spectrum, became an unlikely number one hit. Yet, Wild Dreams is a different kettle of fish.
There's something unseemly about four men in their 40s so obviously chasing trends, as they do here. Alone Together, for instance, contains the kind of R&B-light pop that Justin Bieber has so effectively monopolised, without his boyish charm or youthful energy.
My Hero, written by one Ed Sheeran, sounds impressively like a classic Westlife song and gives the quartet a chance to embrace something less faddish and more soulful.
Still, it is the outlier on Wild Dreams.
The influence of Tom Grennan, another relative young gun of the singer-songwriter game, is felt only faintly on opener Starlight.
Wild Dreams lacks the kind of material on which Westlife shine, which is a shame, because there is life in these boys yet.
BEANS ON TOAST – SURVIVAL OF THE FRIENDLIEST
FOLK singer Beans on Toast sets out his stall with the euphoric A Beautiful Place, which starts his new album, released as always on his birthday, December 1.
Jay McAllister has been making music for more than 15 years and his album title highlights his enduring optimism, undimmed by it being written during the dark days of the pandemic.
That's shown in Let's Get Married Again, when, inspired by playing weddings over the summer in the absence of festivals, he imagines walking down the aisle for a second time with his wife Lizzy.
Nature informs the bucolic Apples and Tree Of The Year, and the sparse Stones sports just the faintest acoustic guitar and wisps of harmonica.
It's not all sweetness and light, with The Commons about the concentration of land ownership among a tiny elite, but closing track Love Yourself, featuring an epic guitar solo, is a better indication of the mood.
VOLBEAT – SERVANT OF THE MIND
IN their native Denmark, Volbeat are superstars. In fact, in most European countries, these heavy metal rockers are chart-topping, festival-headlining favourites.
Volbeat's eighth album since forming in Copenhagen in 2001, Servant Of The Mind amps up the more cartoonish aspects of their sounds.
The band meld rockabilly with pure rock and roll on The Devil Rages On and add an almost Springsteen-esque saxophone solo to Wait A Minute My Girl.
The influence of Metallica looms large of course, filtered through the lens of European pop, and is most obvious on cuts like The Passenger and Say No More.
Frontman Michael Poulsen, on vocals and rhythm guitar, and lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, wrote much of the album during lockdown.
The result, however, is a rollicking ride full of technicolour riffs and soaring vocals.
Normally most at home on stage, Volbeat have clearly avoided resting on their laurels during lockdown.
LOVE OBJECT – NEW FLESH
LOVE Object is the creation of Moscow-based producers Dasha Utochka and Danya Mu, and on their debut album they draw on an array of genres to create something distinctive.
Formed in 2020, the duo have focused bringing together sounds from house, techno, electro and classic synth-pop to create a more modern sound.
The bulk of New Flesh consists of pulsating grooves perfectly calibrated to move a heaving dance floor.
However, tracks like The Kill and Animals contain catchy melodic hooks that make up for any lyrics, delivered in Russian of course, being incomprehensible to British listeners.
The duo are at their most exciting on tracks such as Abyss, which captures the euphoric thrust of early Detroit techno while adding a punk twist.
Elsewhere, the pair explore euphoric house, dark electro and electronic body music.
Love Object bridge the gap between the dance floor and stage, and New Flesh equips them with an arsenal of songs ready for either arena.