Westlife - Turnaround

Are so many twelve and thirteen year old girls that taken with listening to Radio 2 as to make Westlife the success that they are? Really?

I'm thirty-two and not even I'm ready for Radio 2, having refused, on point of principle, to have absolutely nothing to do with a radio station that still employs Terry Wogan no matter their late night and weekend schedules. So long as Wogan's there, there's no place for me. Yet somewhere in the text of the publicity sheet that accompanies this album is the proud claim that both their cover of Barry Manilow's Mandy and their original recording of Hey Whatever had been A-Listed at Radio 2! This? This is what boy bands aspire to?

It can't really be that long since Take That dressed as devils, flashed their butts and inspired young girls to hold up banners bargaining their virginity for one night with Mark Owen. Yet you suspect that at a Westlife gig, the girls sit happily beside their mums, the band have their shirts tucked into their Y-fronts underneath their Ciro Citterio suits and cards are held up saying, "Shane, let me get your slippers ready!".

So, Turnaround then. Well...it's not the worst thing Westlife have ever done for that honour still rests with their recording of Seasons in the Sun, followed closely by their cover of Billy Joel's Uptown Girl. But, well, even reading that sentence back is enough to make you realise that something has gone so, so wrong.

If you've seen it, you'll remember the scene in Beautiful Girls when, around an upright piano in an old bar, Timothy Hutton leads a singalong of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline that reveals the song to be rough, funny and charming and, what was once a mawkish slice of MOR, suddenly made sense. Quite the reverse happens with Mandy, Turnaround's opening track. Westlife produce such an awful version of the song that a little voice way back suggests that maybe Barry Manilow isn't quite as saccharine as you once thought. Should you feel the need to go back and have a listen to Manilow's original recording, so gritty is it in comparison to Westlife, it's almost as if Manilow has allowed Steve Albini to subtly influence his work and that's no compliment to Westlife.

Next up is Hey Whatever and whilst it's pushing it to say that Westlife have released a song challenging today's philosophical climate, it does contain the lines, "Why don't you liberate your mind / Let your colour fill the sky" that, as far as I'm aware, last appeared on a 1969 Incredible String Band song extolling the benefits of LSD. One suspects, however, that driving a generation of teenage girls to turn on, tune in and drop out is surely not what Westlife had intended.

The third track, Heal, is pretty much what you'd expect a Westlife track called Heal to be like and it's followed by Obvious, which bears such a similarity to Take That's Back For Good that, were I Gary Barlow, I'd sue for royalties. After that, When A Woman Loves A Man is thankfully not a cover of the Ben E King song whereas To Be With You is such a faithful re-recording of the Mr Big song that you'll struggle to tell the difference. There are other tracks but, honestly, they all sound somewhat alike with there being precious little to get excited about across any of the thirteen tracks here.

I have a neice who, when aged ten, persuaded her mother to accompany her to a Westlife concert. Now aged twelve, she's no longer interested in them having moved on to more mature sounds but at the time, I suggested to my brother- and sister-in-law that having five louts from Dublin dancing on stage in front of their youngest child would neither be healthy for the mind nor the soul. I still have that opinion and Westlife have done nothing on Turnaround to convince me otherwise.

Still, if you can't get enough of the sound of a bland, bewigged presenter of the Radio 2 breakfast show, add a few points to the score on the right and ignore everything you've read above. Love Wogan? You'll love this!



out of 10

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