Album reviews: Westlife – Wild Dreams and Peter Capaldi – St Christopher

Westlife celebrate comeback number two with a by-numbers boyband record, while ‘Doctor Who’ star Peter Capaldi’s debut is a touching passion project

Annabel Nugent,Elizabeth Aubrey
Thursday 25 November 2021 15:38
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<p>Westlife perform at the annual Golden Camera German film and television awards in Berlin in 2019</p>

Westlife perform at the annual Golden Camera German film and television awards in Berlin in 2019

WestlifeWild Dreams

★★☆☆☆

When it comes to pop bands, comebacks are par for the course. But one clearly wasn’t enough for Westlife. Three years on from their 2018 return, the Irish four-piece are back for round two with a new album, Wild Dreams. Shane Filan, Markus Feehily, Kian Egan and Nicky Byrne have been grown men for a while now, but their latest release shows they’re content staying put in the boy band zone.

On Wild Dreams, there are zero attempts to experiment. There are no interludes or midway tonal shift. No seven-minute track that “pushes the boundaries of genre”. Instead, there’s classic Westlife fare: schmaltzy love songs, upbeat ballads and, well, more schmaltzy love songs. It’s fun to sing along to, at least, as the band pepper each track with their famous key-changes.

Even for bona fide cheese whizzes, the band’s lyrics are particularly ripe. “I’m alone, you’re alone. It’s whatever / We should be, we should be together,” the group sing against the bubbly bassline of dance track “Alone Together”. They’ll offer the slightest glimpse of a contemporary edge before bottling it and running back to the Noughties. It’s like your grandad’s idea of what modern pop music sounds like.

Ed Sheeran-style filigreed guitar and a steady drumbeat make “Do You Ever Think of Me” the most radio-ready song. But stripped to spare instrumentals, as heard on piano-led ballad “Lifeline”, is when the harmonies hark back to the teen-pop era of endless No 1 singles.

Always a crowdpleaser, Westlife give the people what they want. Tracks 12 to 15 are live recordings of hit songs including “You Raise Me Up” and their cover of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”, performed at Ulster Hall. Their inclusion makes it clear there’s nothing the Irish crooners enjoy more than a chorus of girlish screams. AN

Peter Capaldi – St Christopher

‘Doctor Who’ star Peter Capaldi has released his debut album

★★★☆☆

Move over, Lewis Capaldi? Maybe not – it’s pretty hard to compete with the record-breaking singer-songwriter. But make some room, at least, for his cousin, Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi, as he dips his toe into the music world aged 63. Capaldi was in a band at art school: “Our obsessions back then were melancholia, punk, synthesisers, power chords, rain, and being pale and interesting,” he said in a recent interview. His debut album, St Christopher, sees him travelling back in time to those art-rocker roots.

Opener “Beautiful and Weird” swirls with inventive synths, while “The Great Magnificence” goes heavy on the power chords. Capaldi has cited Bowie as one of his all-time heroes (going so far as to draw inspiration for his performance as the Time Lord). There are plenty of nods to the Starman here, too, in the saxophone-laden tracks redolent of his “Let’s Dance” era. Meanwhile, the strings on “In Every Face” ramp up the emotion; “Impossible Youth” channels Eighties Bob Dylan. The album is at its weakest when Capaldi hurtles into dad-rock territory, as he does on “In Person”, or when he tries to mimic Bowie’s vocals to the point of pastiche.

“I don’t suddenly think I’m a rock star,” Capaldi said recently of his passion project, as if pre-empting those who might begrudge him stepping out of his lane. St Christopher won’t realign the stars, but it’s a welcoming bit of fun from one of Scotland’s best and brightest. EA

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