Employing some known songwriters of the pop world makes Boyzone's fourth album 'Brother' a less amateur-sounding affair than the now-quartet's usual material.
Gulp. As if the release of Boyzone's so-called 'comeback' record wasn't already poignant enough following the premature death of Stephen Gately last year, those with a propensity towards misty eyes and lumpy throats may find their condition worsened by the album's opening line, "I will learn to live before I die", crooned by Gately himself. For the hardened nuts out there, however, luckily the rest quickly descending into UB40-style cod-reggae tosh – surprising, considering it was written by pop prince Mika.
Yet amazingly, that can't be said of 'Brother' in its entirety. Heck, some of the Dubliners' fourth studio album is actually solid, occasionally even likeable adult-orientated pop. Take That's own successful 'man band' return has undoubtedly provided Ronan Keating and co. with a blueprint they're intent on following; many of 'Brother''s songs are sweeping ballads with grandiose, air-punching choruses. And Mika isn't the only known songwriting name here, either - the quartet have enlisted the likes of Matt Hales (aka Aqualung), and as a result, the calibre is of a higher standard than on previous Boyzone records.
Gately's voice features again on solemn closing track 'Stronger', while Mikey Graham and even Shane Lynch take turns murmuring lines on the country-tinged pop tune 'Ruby' and the drab 'Right Here Waiting' respectively. It's Keating who unquestionably carries the album, though; in fact, for all intents and purposes, it sounds like one of his solo endeavours – a middle-ground somewhere between Take That and The Fray.
There are several missteps, sure. 'Let Your Wall Fall Down''s gospel choir sounds horribly tokenistic, and their tribute to Gately, 'One More Song' is a bit too heavy-handed where subtlety would have been more appropriate. As Boyzone albums go, though, this could be a lot worse.