Formed as Ireland’s answer to Take That by Louis Walsh back in 1993, Boyzone went on to be one of the most successful boybands ever. With Ronan Keating’s increasing dominance and flourishing solo career, the boys decided to call it a day back in 2000. Three tried solo careers and one succeeded short term (unsurprisingly Ronan). Soon enough though Take That were back and Boyzone followed suit with a comeback tour and album in 2008. A somewhat mediocre success, their tour fared well but their single sales were just a shadow of their former glory. Then tragedy struck. Whilst recording the first full album on new material since reforming, band member Stephen Gately died on holiday of an unknown heart fault. The boys and fans were devastated and wave of sadness hit the pop world. Unperturbed, the quartet vowed to continue in the name of their Brother.
Stuck in their late 90s ballad-heavy heyday.
Picking up the baton and carrying on running will not have been an easy feat for the quartet. The sadness surrounding the completion of Brother automatically prompts a sympathetic ear, but the reflectively sombre tone and heartfelt delivery unfortunately don’t compensate for the lacklustre material explored. Album opener and lead single, the Mika-penned “Gave It All Away” features Stephen’s vocal. Though the five lads are fine vocally, the song itself is limp and wouldn’t have made the final cut had the situation been different.
The clear sense of loss is heard distinctly in all vocal deliveries, with the emotion lifting many album fillers out of the instantly forgettable terrain. More evenly distributed vocals also allows Brother to no longer be the Ronan show. Yet, something is missing. Whilst Take That managed to make themselves relevant and appealing to a whole new generation of fans, Boyzone are yet to re-find their feet. “Love Is A Hurricane” and “Nothing Without You” are single worthy but they stand alone. Ronan turns the emotional rollercoaster of “Let Your Wall Fall Down” into an oversung schmaltzfest, whilst “Too Late For Hallelujah” comes close to the same fate.
Brother is a fitting tribute to their lost friend, but does little to elevate Boyzone’s position as a relevant chart act. With a sound that is stuck in their late 90s ballad-heavy heyday, Brother remembers a time when things were easier for the Irish charmers.