Speculation may be mounting on whether 'Four' is One Direction's last album or not – eek, OMG, WTF, no, etc. - but there's no denying that the biggest boyband of their generation have conjured up yet another slick collection of pop tunes here.
Of course, when you're working with the best pop songwriters in the business – including Dubliner Ruth-Anne Cunningham on 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go?', FYI – it's a given that your songs will be of a certain calibre.
'Four' signals a definite shift in the quintet's style: it's out with the juvenile fizz of tracks like 'Live While We're Young' and 'What Makes You Beautiful' and in with the mature balladry of 'Fool's Gold' and 'Night Changes'. That's all well and good – but even Harry Styles starts to sound a little bored as the album tapers off into formulaic filler (although hearing the 20-year-old channelling all of his angsty lovelorn passion into the Ed Sheeran-penned '18' - "I have loved you since we were 18", etc. - is amusing.)
Amongst the snoozesome ballads are some decent songs that strangely take their cue from the 1980s – particularly the chugging synthpop of 'Stockholm Syndrome' – while the harmony-led 'Fireproof' sounds bizarrely like an Eagles b-side.
Still, at least they're shaking things up, right? It may not be the most vital or innovative album you'll hear this year, but it'll sate Directioners nicely – and the innocent bystanders they inflict it upon shouldn't be too miffed, either.
THREE OUT OF FIVE