Twelve years. Can you believe it? Twelve years we've been listening to Westlife dole out drudgery of the highest order. The last few years have been particularly dire, ever since the vomit-inducing collection of poorly chosen covers that was 2006's 'The Love Album'. It's a relief then, that their eleventh album overall sees Shane, Mark, Kian and Nicky at least attempt to have a little bit of fun.
Of course, 'Gravity' is still riddled with the boys' signature ballads, produced to within an inch of their lives as always, but by upping the pace on just a couple of songs, driving the likes of opener 'Beautiful Tonight' and 'No One's Gonna Sleep Tonight' with easy-going dance pop beats, the whole tone seems to have lifted. These few upbeat moments are still the minority though, and the remaining slow numbers are predictably slathered in mountains of cheese that even the sweet stripped back piano and sweeping strings of 'Chances' can't manage to break through.
An unlikely cover of Hoobastank's 'The Reason' has translated easily to its new pop format, its contrived lyrics and mushy sentimentality perhaps a little more at home in a genre that thrives on clichés. And Westlife have kept the very worst for last, as the Celtic flute on 'Too Hard To Say Goodbye' appears to have been included purely for the American contingent that believes all Irish live at the bottom of a rainbow on top of a big pot of gold. So then, 'Gravity' is still a fair way off being a halfway decent record, but as Westlife go, it could have been a lot worse.