Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Anniversary!


Due to my computer being stubborn, I wasn't able to post this til now.
So I duly apologise to Shane and Gillian (who I'm sure are devastated about the belatedness of my congratulations) and wish them a very happy 3rd anniversary. For yesterday.

Three years and one day ago, Shane Filan wed Gillian Walsh in Ballintubber Abbey in Mayo.

Mark and Kian were his groomsmen, Jodi upstaged the bride in a red dress, it rained, Gillian arrived in a horse-drawn carriage, there was a laser light/fireworks show and Shane mimed their favourite song. The end.
So to Shane and Gillian: Happy Anniversary. May this year be as good as the last one. And if last year was shit, may this one be better.
PS. Sorry I defiled your wedding photos that time by putting Mark and Kevin's faces over yours.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Marie Antoinette


Director/writer/famous daughter Sofia Coppola’s watchword seems to be ‘slow’. Previous films The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation have been slowburn dramas with strangely flat story arcs and no particular climax.

But while these two films have found their strengths in strong character development and emphasis on detail, Marie Antoinette is less successful.

And there’s not even a beheading.

Kirsten Dunst’s French Queen spends her time gambling, eating cake, and having indiscriminate sex with attractive Swedes. Which is all well and good – her husband (Jason Schwartzmann) isn’t particularly interested in doing the nasty with her, and she doesn’t have the first clue about ruling a country.

Then some stuff happens. She wears towering wigs, goes through the entire French supply of shoes, eats more cake, dances to The Cure, faces the requisite angry-mob-with-flaming-pitchforks. Oh yeah, and pops out a couple of kids along the way.

There are some highlights. Rose Byrne’s party-girl is a delight, as is Rip Torn as the lecherous king. And every now and then Kirsten Dunst shows some real insight into her character’s emotions... and her backside and nipples. Plus there’s some funny stuff about sex. Which is good. If only the contemporary winks and nudges hadn’t worked so much better in A Knight’s Tale.

You can’t help feeling that Coppola has missed the point… and along with her, so have we.

The Queen

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, seems to be as far elevated above our consciousnesses as her position is elevated above our own. An aging woman commanding a decomposing system of rule, she is the mother of a cowardly weasel of a prince and the wife of an adulterous geriatric.

Yet director Stephen Frear and writer Peter Morgan’s version of The Queen is imbued with such heart, depth and – dare I say it – wit, that it is impossible not to find virtue in her.

Primarily chronicling the week following the death of Princess Diana, the film presents a side of the titular Queen (Helen Mirren) previously unseen by such lowly commoners as ourselves.

Through her strained dealings with new Prime Minister Tony Blair and her interactions with family (Sylvia Syms is both charming and affecting as the Queen Mother) and the press, we are able to see the trials involved in maintaining such stoic dignity. Mirren’s performance is subdued and nuanced, creating ranges of heartfelt emotion with the simple twitch of an eyebrow or the fall of a foot.

The performance of Michael Sheen as Tony Blair is equally commendable, his uncanny resemblance to the Prime Minister only the starting point of a triumphant and sensitive performance.

While there is no way to verify the accuracy of the events, the film stands on its own as an affecting story of dignity and restraint in the face of accusation, propaganda, and the potential wickedness of politics, not to mention the feeling of helplessness when one realises one may not be as understanding of her world as one once thought.

Another strength of the film is its refusal to take sides. Every character has his or her own reasons for acting, and their own benefits to gain and advantages to lose. Tony Blair is no less a person than Her Majesty, simply the flipside of a spinning coin, and those caught in the wake of the events are drawn with sensitivity, regardless of which way they would like the coin to fall.

Its power draws from its unrelenting intent to present the story of a lady in crisis, her world thrown into sudden turmoil, and is, overwhelmingly, a success.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Brian McFadden on Aussie TV

Brian will be appearing on Channel Nine's Carols By Candlelight, which airs at 8pm tomorrow night.

Delta will also appear, but they will be performing seperately (as far as I know).

Anyone who misses the performance will be able to download the video from The Committed, probably from December 26.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Marvin's New Baby

Mark and Kevin have adopted a boxer puppy. Her name is Saffy. I'm going to assume that this is a reference to Ab Fab and then laugh at them for being such wonderfully camp queers.

Everybody say 'awwwwwww...'

New Single!

Total Eclipse Of The Heart will be released on February 5, 2007.

It will be released on 2 discs. You can order them both from HMV.co.uk. Search for 'Westlife' and it should be listed.

I'll post again when I know more about b-sides and cover art.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Westlife talk to SonyBMG Australia

Check out SonyBMG Australia's Westlife interview here. The video goes for about 15 and a half minutes, and the boys discuss their Guinness world records, the new album, their next musical direction, Delta Goodrem, the tour, breaking Australia, the fans, the Ashes, Australia Idol, and - believe it or not - Mark's love of monkeys.

Not to mention, Mark seems to have very 'active' fingers throughout.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Georgina Pregnant With Twins!

Nicky confirmed it last night on Jensen, a Dutch television show.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Louis' Rumour Mill

The Walsh-man's up to his old tricks again, believe it or not. This time it's a plane accident that could have gone deadly, which is very frightening, though the article does leave me wondering:

  • why is the name of the airline not mentioned?
  • if a plane malfunction so serious occurred (regardless of who was on the plane), why did we hear nothing in the Australia press?
  • was Shane the only one on the plane? Why? Is it because he has a young daughter and that makes it more dramatic?
  • is this a different accident to the other one they had when they were leaving Sydney (on the same day) and the hydraulics died? Was that the plane Nicky, Kian and Mark were on, seeing as Shane was by himself?
  • does Louis' have some kind of bad karma that attracts plane accidents to his acts?
  • why does Paul Martin always seem to write the more untraceable articles about Louis' acts?
  • what shows? Why wasn't I told of this? And what do they mean, 'sold out'?

Hmmm...

Ponder these questions and more while you read the article.


SHANE'S 200MPH AIRPORT TERROR
Westlife star tells of fear for life after aircraft fails
By Paul Martin

WESTLIFE'S Shane Filan revealed last night that he felt lucky to be alive after a 320kmh plane nightmare.

The 27-year-old singer's flight from Sydney was abandoned seconds before take-off when the aircraft suffered a sudden mechanical failure.

The Sligo star and other passengers had to spend the night at an airport hotel while the incident was investigated.

He told the Daily Mirror: "We were flying down the runway and then suddenly the plane was shaking like mad.

"I gripped on to the seat and then there was a huge crunching and screeching noise.

"The pilot slammed the breaks on so hard that it actually veered off the runway on to the grass.

"I closed my eyes and waited for the worst to happen. I was thinking, 'Oh my God, I don't want to die like this'."

Shane, who with wife Gillian has a one-year-old daughter Nicole, was returning home from a two-week promotional stint in Australia where the band had played a string of sell-out shows.

He added: "We have to fly all the time with Westlife but I'm dreading getting on a plane now.

The experience really scared me and I had to take some sleeping tablets to get through the flight the next day."

"I'm chilling out with my family for a few days now and hopefully I won't be too nervous next time I get on a plane."

Before this incident Shane was famed for his love of flying.

A year ago he bought a private helicopter for his Sligo mansion.

He has taken flying lessons and is on the verge of qualifying for a full licence.

Ronan Keating once hired hypnotist Paul McKenna to get him over a fear of flying after an air scare while in Boyzone.

He said: "I have tried everything from hypnosis to self-help books but I still dread getting into a plane."

Monday, December 04, 2006

New DVD

Westlife's new DVD of the Face To Face Tour 2006, live from Wembley was released in Australia on the 2nd of December. Everyone go out and buy a copy.

I've already got two copies.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Westlife = Murderers?

Whoever knew those nice Oirish boys could do something so wicked? In the past week they've been accused of two murders, once by the authorities involved and once by the press.

Because Westlife, you see, have killed music.

In one of the most pathetic slinging matches of the year, Westlife have beaten Oasis, U2 and The Beatles to the top of the UK album charts with The Love Album.

Everybody took a side... Elton was pro-Westlife (mostly because he chucked a tantrum when a Gallagher offended him) and Gary Barlow (Take That) was anti-Westlife. There were a few Gallagher tantrums, too, one involving a church and the proclamation that 'there is not god'.

Then there was Victoria Newton, columnist for The Sun, who made the accusation of murder. She sent an impassioned plea to readers, imploring them to please prevent the unholiest of events: The Day The Music Died. She branded them 'Pestlife', and informed us that she was 'afraid De Loife will be crowned No1 - thereby sounding the death knell for British music as we know it.'

Needless to say, and probably with some unintentional promotional help from good old Victoria, 'Pestlife' kicked the arses of those irritating Gallaghers. Music... is dead.

But not content with bringing about the downfall of British music, Westlife went one further. Yes, they have murdered... Record Of The Year.

In Heat, Vernon Kay, last year's host, told us Record Of The Year will not be taking place because 'it wasn't really fair that Westlife always won just because they've got the biggest fanbase.'

While I do agree that Westlife fans will vote for a song regardless of its quality, this comes across as a pretty petty argument. An award voted by the public will always go to the most popular candidate, not necessarily the most deserving. That's how it worked before Westlife were around, and that's how it will work afterwards. And yes, Westlife do have the bigger fanbase, but that's because more people like them, making them entirely deserving of such an award.

Not that it matters anymore. Westlife have committed a double-murder, so they're probably off to jail.

Good thing. They won't be able to run for Record Of The Year if they're incarcerated, so it can be reinstated. It's okay if some uber-popular band wins... as long as it isn't Westlife.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Love Album Chart Position

Westlife's The Love Album is at #11 on the Motorola Aria Charts after their week promoting in Australia.

Congratulations lads, and great job!

The boys are now back in Ireland, where their album is at #1, beating Oasis, U2, and The Beatles, which were all released on the same date.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pictures From Last Tuesday!

FINALLY got the pictures uploaded, even though it's almost a week later. (a week! I can't believe it!)

Enjoy.





Friday, November 24, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

To some, beauty pagaents are the bane and embarrassment of Western society, especially when they focus on children. A breeding ground for paedophiles, a proliferation of the value of looks over substance in little girls, and a massive investment of time, emotion and money for the families involved.

Little Miss Sunshine sticks two fingers up in the face of organised catwalking for minors, taking the family of seven-year-old pagaent contestant Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin, Signs) on a journey that is by all accounts revelatory, emotional, and hilariously funny.

Michael Arndt's blacker than black script is handled with surprising flair by directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (better known for music videos than films) as Olive, her self-obsessed self-help author father (Greg Kinnear), unsatisfied but supportive mother (Toni Collette), Nietzsche-wannabe silent brother (Paul Dano), sex-obsessed druggie grandfather (Alan Arkin), and suicidal gay professor uncle (Steve Carrell, in a surprisingly brilliant dramatic turn) drive from Albuquerque to California for the Little Miss Sunshine pagaent.

Each character is a finely crafted and non-stereotypical persona, each with their own goals and fears. Rather than develop as a triumph of one character over the oppression of their family situation, it is the rare moments of collective understanding and support that provide the most victory, and the wry sense of hope you leave the theatre with is testament to the understated and realistic filmmaking.

That is not to say that the film is without comedy - it is both pitch black and uproarious, infused with a realism that avoids the outrageous for the most part. Even the parts of the movie that push the boundaries of believability are carried through on the strength of the characters and the actors. The relationship between Dwayne (Dano) and Frank (Carrell) is especially poignant and hilarious, and one of the many high points of the film. And without giving too much away, the finale is of such brilliant satirical worth it should be shown to every mother thinking of entering her daughter in a pagaent.

One of the best films of the year.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Westlife In Brisbane!

Yesterday I saw Westlife at their promotional signing and performances in Brisbane.

I arrived in the Queen Street Mall at 8am and was first in line, so I was front row centre for the performances. We were a bit worried that not many people would show up - SonyBMG Australia are completely inept - but by noon it was completely packed out.

Speaking of inept, the occasion was sponsored by the good old B105 breakfast crew, who didn't know Westlife's names, didn't do any promotion, and put up no posters except for ones emblazoned with 'B105'. They also told us that Westlife had 13 number ones (queue a roar of 'FOURTEEN!' from the crowd).

But once the lads got on stage, none of that mattered.

They arrived straight from their hotel across the street, flanked by security and good old Dave 'Lasty' Last who could probably roll a semi-trailer without doing his back in, and stepped onto stage. Nicky informed us all that it was a hot day, even though it was only 28 degrees (gotta love those delicate Irishmen) and they performed World Of Our Own, The Rose, and Easy, followed by You Raise Me Up, which they performed sitting down with their famous 'stand up at the key change'. A short interview followed, and again, totally inept, stupid questions from the B105 gang.

The signing followed. They were all in a great mood and seemed really excited about being in Australia, even if they were slightly jetlagged and tired.

Shane was first, followed by Kian (on great form - he's redeemed his pratty behaviour from last time I met him), then Nicky. I congratulated Nicky on Georgina's pregnancy and he was very excited about it, asking me for a bet on the sex of the baby and looking triumphant when I said 'boy'. Mark was next, and I finally got the chance to tell him how much I love Imaginary Diva (written and sung by the man himself, for the non-fans), and got a photo with him.

Last night was the Ashes To Ashes at QPAC which was a very boring affair for a non-cricket fan like myself. They sang Easy again and, while it wasn't as good as the earlier performance (and they looked very very short in their suits) it was still class.

Again my photos don't seem to be working, but if you go here you can see them all.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Review #8: The Love Album

Released: 18 November 2006

The album: It was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I had my first listen of Westlife’s The Love Album (aka The Shag Album) – a mix of eleven of the ‘most memorable and romantic love songs ever written’ (quote: Westlife's official website, no less). Much to my surprise and relief, it was a victorious foray into the world of themed albums, with very few disappointments and quite a number of out-and-out triumphs. The songs were well-chosen and executed, with the requisite amount of emotion to assure us that this was not just a karaoke album in the making. It’s rather adventurous, with Westlife showing a flair for country, and bringing in a couple of less well-known songs to round out the anthems.

The only drawback is the lack of Nicky and Kian, and it’s both scary and ironic that Delta sings more than they do. Especially when there are so many songs that would have benefited from their voices, and from a bit of variety. But no matter, we’ve lost hope on that front and it’s best to move on, think of them as guest vocalists, and enjoy the wonderful fluff of this, Westlife’s eighth album


The Rose (Bette Midler):
Like a mishmash of all their other big-hitters, this one is not a low point on the album but it gets tired after a few listens. The usual Steve Mac production is there, but there are really only so many times we can have a big key change and massive production values before everything starts sounding the same.

Total Eclipse Of The Heart (Bonnie Tyler):
A very strange choice, and that’s what actually lets them pull this one off. Bonnie Tyler should be a no-go – something that’s such a scary prospect no-one should ever attempt it without being sure they won’t get death threats for butchering a classic. And the lads certainly won’t. Every note is pitch perfect, the production big and loud, triumphantly treading the middle-ground between homage and standalone.

All Out Of Love (Air Supply):
Ah, the Delta song. Putting my Delta-prejudice aside for the moment, I still maintain that it would have been better without her. Her voice doesn’t quite gel with theirs; in fact, strangely enough, her voice isn’t quite strong enough. The song feels as if it’s dipping and weaving between the different voices, and it lacks consistency. That said, it’s a decent enough adaptation, not becoming long and boring like other covers of the same song.

You Light Up My Life (Debbie Boone):
Considering it’s one of the most vomit-inducing songs of all time, it’s not a bad version. It’s still saccharine and sickly, but the revolting chorus is so over-run with gospel production that you forget how awful the lyrics are and notice that the verses are not that bad. Shane and Mark are both on top form, Mark’s gospel/soul voice used to perfection. You might throw up in your mouth, but at least it won’t spray all over the carpet.

Easy (The Commodores):
This one should have been a duet, and like the Diana Ross one (which shall not be named) it’s almost identical to the original. But Lionel Richie pulled out at the last minute so we’re left with this cobbled-together boredom. It’s more karaoke than a Saturday night at the RSL.

You Are So Beautiful (Joe Cocker):
Another one that should inspire projectile vomiting, yet… it doesn’t. It’s handled delicately, with skill and precision, every note judged and executed flawlessly. The simple lyrics are the perfect showcase for Mark and Shane’s talent, the subtle string section offsetting the slight growl in their voices. Wonderful. Just wonderful.

Have You Ever Been In Love (Leo Sayer):
Easily the best song on the album, owing immensely to its obscurity. Rather than fall into the karaoke-trap many of the other songs skate around, it feels almost like a new song, which is what we all want anyway. Not to mention it’s a fantastic song in its own right. The lyrics are thoughtful and heartfelt, as is the execution. Not a note is put wrong, the arrangement is perfection. This is what a Westlife song should be. It’s just too bad it’s not an original.

Love Can Build A Bridge (The Judds):
Another victory from the lads. They should do country more often, if this is any indication of their talents. And here’s the big hitter… there’s FOUR people in the band for this song! Can you believe it? Nicky and Kian appear only briefly, and again it begs the question ‘why do they not sing more?’. Apart from that, the swaying, waltzing rhythm complements their voices wonderfully. The schmaltzy chorus is unashamedly sentimental, the verses emotional perfection. If only they did originals like this.

The Dance (Garth Brooks):
A big hit on tour this year, and long recognised as a trademark Westlife song, it was a foregone conclusion that this one end up on the album. Country seem to be the ideal direction for Westlife at the moment (much better than that embarrassing Rat Pack thing, anyway). The only drawback is that Nicky and Kian are not used more, as their voices have a distinctive country quality that would be far more appropriate than Shane and Mark’s vocal stylings, though Shane and Mark are hardly insufficient.

All Or Nothing (O-Town):
Originally meant for Westlife, the song went to O-Town instead, and the lads are finally getting a crack at it. It’s good, but it doesn’t quite beat the definitive version, though extra points for making it an acoustic. It would benefit from a bit more vocal variety.

You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (Righteous Brothers):
Bring me some rusty nails, I want to hammer them into my eardrums. Shane simply cannot cope with notes that low – he sounds crackly, forced, and fake, as though he’s doing a bad impression of the Righteous Brothers. Bring Kian in to show him how a decent low-note’s done. Mark is a delight, however, tackling his parts with an awesome whimsy and glee. He saves the second half. Avoid the first half entirely.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Reminder:

Westlife's The Love Album will be released tomorrow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Saw 3

The grotesquery has broken out of its face-cage for the third instalment of the Saw franchise, and it’s a beautiful bloodbath.

Loosely picking up where Saw 2 left off, Aussie boys James Wan and Leigh Whannell return to spin a new yarn about the sadistic – but revoltingly fair – Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his partner-in-gore Amanda (Shawnee Smith, Becker)

But all is not peachy in Jigsaw's twisted lair. On his death bed, he is training Amanda to take over, and looking for one last hurrah before he succumbs. And that means one last victim...

It carries on the franchise admirably, continuing the tradition of stomach-churning, unflinching torture, mixed with a tight, compelling plot. Even though the violence is hardcore, it doesn’t fall into the trap of being superfluous – every movement made by every character seeks to further the already intricate plot, and for the most part, this is a success.

The characters, however, fail to entirely convince on a personal level. While the plights of Jigsaw’s latest victims are horrible situations, there seem to be far too many characters to gain a real empathy with any of them, and once the spillover characters from Saw 1 and 2 are dealt with, there’s too much going on.

Which would be okay, except for the fact that it's overcompensated for by the end when the patented 'twist' is revealed. It's as though someone is poking you repeatedly while chanting 'do you get it now? Let me show you that again, just in case you don't get it. Are you sure you got it? We could show you one more time.'

Likewise, the extra plot runs hand-in-hand with extra gore, and some of the traps seem unrealistically detailed and technological for two people to construct, despite how magnificent they may be.

Still, the Saw franchise has always based its appeal on spectacle, and there it certainly delivers.

It may not quite live up to the standards of its predecessors, but as a standalone film it is certainly a must-see for the more intelligent legions of horror fans.

Updated Aussie Schedule

Tuesday November 21
Queen Street Mall (12.30pm)
Performing two big tunes from The Love Album, incl The Rose
Signing album copes in-store
Screening for the Ashes Cricket Show, Westlife performing All Or Nothing live

Thursday November 23
Martin Place
Performing The Rose live on Channel Seven's Sunrise
Signing copies of the album
Television broadcasting: 7:50

TV Performances on:
Mornings with Kerri-Anne
A Current Affair
Video Hits
The Sunday Show

Radios:
All over your radios as Australia says a big hello to the UK's no. 1 sensations.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Get Ready To Be Amazed Australia:

Guinness World Record Holders Westlife Hit Oz Next Week!

Fresh from scoring the Guinness World Record for the most singles to debut straight in at #1 (14 to be sure, to be sure), lovable Irish superstars Westlife land on our shores next week for a five day trip to promote their new album 'The Love Album' (in stores this Saturday) and 'Live At Wembley' DVD. Fans can catch the guys everywhere next week, including performing on the upcoming Ashes TV special, plus at in-store signings in Brissy and Sydney.

Having just topped the single charts in the UK this week with 'The Rose' and landing themselves another Guinness World Record for the most singles to debut straight in at #1 ('The Rose' is their 14th!), Ireland's pop megastars Westlife will hit Australia next week for a whirlwind five day promo trip!

Here in support of their new release 'The Love Album', in stores this Saturday, November 18, and their new DVD 'Live At Wembley' (coming on December 2), the guys will chat to loads of media about their new material and upcoming tour of Australia next February, while also treating fans to some very special appearances.

Brisbane fans can catch them on Tuesday, November 21 at 12.30pm at Queen St Mall where they will perform two big tunes from 'The Love Album' including the excellent first single 'The Rose', before signing album copies in-store.

On Thursday November 23, Sydney fans will also be able to glimpse them in Martin Place when they will perform 'The Rose' live on Channel Seven's brekkie show 'Sunrise' then sign copies of the album too! If you're not gonna be to make it, tune in from 7.50am to catch all the action.

But that's not all... with the Ashes cricket season about to explode between the Poms and the Aussies, the Irish lads will treat us to a performance of their new tune 'All Or Nothing' on the special 'Ashes Cricket Show' to be screened live on Tuesday, November 21.

Keep an eye out for them performing on 'Mornings With Kerri-Anne', 'A Current Affair', 'Video Hits', 'The Sunday Show', and all over your radios as Australia says a big hello to the UK's newest #1 sensations!

'The Love Album' album in stores Saturday November 17
'Live At Wembley' DVD available Saturday, December 2

Westlife Promo Tour In-Stores And Performances
Tuesday, November 21 - In-store Appearance and Performance, Queen Street, Brisbane, 12.30pm
Thursday November 23 - In-store Appearance and Performance, Martin Place, Sydney

Monday, November 13, 2006

Run For Cover

Their 21st single, the Rose is also their 14th number one.

And it's not difficult to see why. The song sticks to the old formula, in fact you'd be forgiven for thinking that the intro was going to lead into a rousing rendition of You Raise Me Up. Play them side by side, and there'll be eight Westlifers standing up for the key change together. Not to mention the harmony seems to have disappeared. Were Nicky and Kian even in the recording studio that day?

But you've heard my opinions on that song before, so let's move on.

Check out the cover, first of all. There are two covers for this, one black and one white. In this one, Nicky's jerking Mark off, except it appears the head of Mark's cock has swollen red and the shaft has shrivelled to a green stick...

Oh right. Sorry, that's a flower of some kind. No idea what kind, of course. I'm not much of a florist, me.

That was, of course sarcasm. Could there be a more cliched cover for this single? Certainly no more cliched than the video, but you've heard my ranting on that before.

The b-sides are like a continuum of quality. There's the good, the average, and the dead awful. The new BMW goes to If (originally by Bread), which is a delicately produced triumph that has the requisite emotion, but is beautifully understated. Nicky's vocals are stunning, sweet and sexy, and Mark's notes are perfection. Shane trembles a little, but we're getting used to the effects of his smoking, and it doesn't grate.

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica goes to Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You, a George Benson cover and mid-tempo ballad that's good for a wistful smile and a bit of a foot-tap. The only drawback is that it goes on far too long, especially for a song that has no bridge and has an unusually long chorus. The repetition is forgivable, however, if only for the fact that they let Kian sing as well, this time, and he and Nicky are the highlight of this piece, bringing up once again the question: 'Why don't they get to sing more?' Shane and Mark are also on top form.

And then the golden dog-turd goes to Solitaire. It shouldn't be surprising - it is, after all, a Neil Sedaka song - rather it's disappointing that Westlife would stoop to such sugar-coated rat vomit. It's boring, long, and a walking (or singing) cliche. The lads sound creaky and a little squawky - the vocals should be played back to them in ten years time when they've all lost their larynxes to throat cancer - and the emotion is forced and fake. They might have been falling asleep while recording it. I was certainly doing so while listening to it.

In short, it's a take-or-leave affair, the taking of which should only be half-based on the strength of the title track.

Westlife Get 14th Number One!

For the people who haven't heard yet... yes it's true. Last night, Westlife nabbed their 14th UK number one for The Rose, beating out the Green Day/U2 collaboration. They were number two in Ireland, beaten by the same UK runner-up.

They now equal Cliff Richard for the 3rd most UK number ones of all time, beaten only by the Beatles (17) and Elvis Presley (21).

But there's a strange sort of excitement surrounding the single. It's a decent song, yes, and it's very exciting that Westlife have managed another number one, but if you read the comments from fans, there's an opinion that seems to pop up a lot.

"I don't really like the song, but I'm so glad they've gone number one! They deserve it!"

It's an odd sort of mentality, to be supporting a song you really don't like all that much. Of course, it's the Westlife-factor that does it. Support your band to the end, regardless of what they release, but if you don't agree with the covers direction and don't really like the song, should you be supporting it at all? And what's with this 'deserving' thing? It seems that releasing a single at all is enough to deserve a number one, for some fans.

I know I bought the single. I quite like The Rose, but admittedly I was much more interested in hearing the b-sides. Which I could have downloaded from the internet for free and still not offered my support. I hate that they're turning into a covers band, I don't really want to support it, but I still bought the single.

But if a single isn't successful they do learn from the experience. Look at Hey Whatever. One of the most exciting, fun, GOOD songs they've ever released, it was a semi-cover (same music, different lyric to de-gayify it) of a Relish! song that Mark found, and was recorded on the proviso that if it didn't go to number one, the next song they'd release would be Mandy, a saccharine Barry Manilow cover.

It went to number 4. They released Mandy.

And they've not looked back from covers since.

So what would happen, then, if their covers started to fail? If the original, interesting stuff was doing better than the covers?

Well, one option would be that they'd stop recording them and start looking up the aforementioned original, interesting stuff. The other option would be that maybe - just maybe - they'd lose heart and stop recording at all.

And I think that's what frightens a lot of fans. It's the theory that if we do not offer our undying, militant support to every single, the lads will think we don't like them anymore. Ridiculous, yes (they didn't stop when Hey Whatever went number four, did they?), but it's a fear a lot of fans seem to hold. Or maybe, like me, they're just extremely anally retentive when it comes to single buying. Either way, we've reached a stalemate. They won't stop releasing covers, and we won't do anything about it.

Which one affects the other? Do we not do anything because they wouldn't stop? Or do they not stop because we're not doing anything? Either way, they still have our money in their pockets.

Or maybe it's hope that this is just a phase they'll grow out of, and next time we'll get this 'original album' they've been promising.

If we don't, we'll still eat it up with a giant spoon.

But there's always a point where you get full. When you get sick of reheated leftovers and go looking for some fresh fruit.

Not yet, apparently.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mark: "Hiding It Was Harder...!"

Before you read the article:

I find it simply hilarious that they used the phrase 'first gay encounter'. It was his first relationship, that doesn't mean he wasn't having all sorts of casual sex before he met Kevin. He was 24 when he met him - what 24 year old bloke wouldn't have gotten his end in by then if he had the kind of access Mark has? Mark's probably been Slut-man for years!

This is not a Mills & Boone. This is real life. Does it make everyone more comfortable with him being a fag if he's being a good, clean, pure fag who never has sex and acts like Jack on Will & Grace?

In the words of a friend of mine... "STOP TRYING TO DESEXUALISE HIM!"

On with the article:

* * *

WESTLIFE star Mark Feehily has revealed how hiding his sexuality from fans was harder than admitting he was gay.

The Sligo millionaire dropped a bombshell last year when he "came out" amid a blaze of publicity.

But the 26-year-old singer said the real challenge was keeping it under wraps secret for six years.

Mark told the Irish Daily Mirror: "The really scary thing was trying to keep it all a secret - that's what I found really tough.

"I was worried that something would leak out before I had the chance to say it myself.

"I wasn't at all worried when it came to the point that I actually announced I was gay - because that was nothing compared to the pressure of keeping it all a secret.

"When it all finally came out and hit the headlines it was a huge weight off my shoulders because I didn't have to live a lie in that respect.

"People often say to me that my biggest test in Westlife must have been coming out, but it was actually keeping it a secret that was the real problem." Mark has been in a long-term relationship with former boy band singer Kevin McDaid, 22.

He revealed it was his first gay encounter and is still going strong. Mark added: "Kevin was my first relationship and the whole thing was a learning experience.

"We didn't know what to expect and how the public would view the whole thing. But to be honest it's been amazing.

"We're just a normal couple who enjoy spending time together.

"Because I'm on tour so much we have to really make the most of our time off together."

And he said he has no plans to adopt children at this stage.

He added: "It's something I haven't even thought about if I'm being completely honest.

"I don't have any big desire to have kids yet but of course you can never predict what will happen in the future.

"It would be something you couldn't rush in to because the laws for same-sex couples are so restrictive."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Aussie Promo Announced!

From Sony BMG.com.au:

Westlife Lay On The Love With Forthcoming Album

With seven chart-busting albums under their belt and a record breaking 13 #1 UK hits, Westlife will deliver their brand new release 'The Love Album' on November 18.

Hand picked by the band themselves, these 11 memorable love songs include a duet with none other than Aussie's own Delta Goodrem and a cover of Bette Midler's 1980s classic, 'The Rose'. Watch the video here and stay tuned for when the boys touch down later this month for their very special five-day promo tour....

With their 2007 Australian tour getting closer, Westlife are giving you another reason to feel the love with the November 18 release of their brand new collection 'The Love Album'. With all 11 tracks hand-picked by Nicky, Kian, Mark, and Shane, this eighth album from the Irish sensation is sure to be a hit with the fans with favourites such as 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling', 'You Are So Beautiful', 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' and an excellent duet with Australian golden girl Delta Goodrem on the Air Supply classic 'All Out Of Love'.

The band also cover the 1980s Bette Midler favourite 'The Rose'.

'The Love Album' will be produced by Westlife's long-time producer Paul Mac, who has taken the band to the staggering heights of 13 UK #1 hits and over 35 million albums sold worldwide.

Grab your tix now to feel the love when Westlife hit Oz this February for their highly anticipated Australian tour, and keep your eyes peeled when the boys touch down later this month for their very special five day promo tour starting November 21! More news to follow...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Nicky and Georgina are Expecting

The Irish Taoiseach’s eldest daughter Georgina is expecting a baby with her husband, Westlife singer Nicky Byrne, it was confirmed today.

In a one-line statement, a spokesperson said the new arrival is due next summer. It will the first grandchild of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his separated wife, Miriam Kelly. Their youngest daughter Cecelia is a best-selling author.

Today’s statement said: “Nicky and Georgina Byrne are delighted to announce that they are expecting their first child next summer.”

The couple wed at Wicklow Registry Office, Co Wicklow in August 2003 and their union was blessed four days later at the Roman Catholic Church of St Pierre et St Paul in Gallardon, Eure-et-Loir, France.

The couple attended the Ard Fheis (annual conference) of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s ruling Fianna Fail party in Dublin last night.

Georgina, 27 and Nicky, 28, appeared briefly on RTE television as they hugged Mr Ahern at the back of the Citywest Hotel hall before he made his televised address.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Public Service Announcement!

Tomorrow morning Rage will screen the video for The Rose between 5am and 5:30am.

On Sunday morning it will be aired on Video Hits.

Westlife Front Woolies' Christmas Campaign

27.10.06

Westlife are the stars of a new £25 million Christmas campaign for Woolworths.

The chart-topping Irish boy band will appear in a new TV ad singing White Christmas.

The ad, set in a fantasy Woolies store, will be broadcast from Wednesday.

Woolworths marketing director Stephen Robertson said: "We love Westlife at Woolies."

"With 13 number one singles they are one of the biggest bands ever and they connect very well with our customers."

"On set they had a lot of fun and were naturals when it came to acting."

The band follows in the footsteps of X Factor winner Shayne Ward, who was the star of the store's Easter TV campaign.


~~~


First of all (for the people who haven't figured it out), this is of course the UK Woolworths and not the Aussie version. That's why they have Westlife and Shayne Ward, and we do not. Because Aussie Woolworths can't even get Lisa McCune.

Second of all, I have to laugh at the use of the word 'acting', considering the amount of time they actually spend on screen. Somehow I doubt it's that difficult to mime one line of a song (badly) and throw snowballs at a puppet. But I'm not a trained actor - what do I know?

Thirdly, and I've saved the funniest for last... WHITE CHRISTMAS?! No, seriously, WHITE CHRISTMAS?! I do realise that it's one of the most famous popular Christmas songs of all time, but does that mean Westlife do (or have ever done) a good version of it? Of course not. In fact, anyone who's heard the song will know that it's one of the most boring, trite, embarrasing songs Westlife have ever released, and that includes When You Tell Me That You Love Me.

Rumour is it'll be released as a single to coincide with the advertising campaign. If that's the case, the Woolies marketing exec needs to be strung up in a dungeon and made to listen to the song five times in a row. Only then will he have repented for his mistake. But I do see where he was coming from - it's much easier to get a boyband to mime to a song than to record two lines of a new one.

Anyway, check out the ad. It's actually not that bad, for all my ranting and raving, and you get to see Westlife throw snowballs. Which is a lot more amusing than it actually sounds.

For me, anyway.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Suspiria


When listing off the greatest 70s horror films, you get the old faithfuls: The Exorcist, Dawn Of The Dead, The Amityville Horror, Jaws.

What you don’t hear about is a film called Suspiria.

Made in 1977 by bonkers Italian director Dario Argento, it’s a twisted little story about an American dancer (Jessica Harper, Shock Treatment) who transplants herself into a German dance academy, where the teachers may or may not be involved in something a lot darker than ballet.

Though it may not be the most famous of 70s horror, it is certainly the scariest. Argento’s tense plot is enhanced by a vivid and inspired use of colour, stunningly arranged shots, and a few of the best and most inventive deaths in screen history. It’s so nail-biting, in fact, that it’s almost hard to watch, the tension strung taut as a wire.

The dubbing is slightly disastrous however, yet it’s not impossible to ignore and is complemented by a childlike, memorable score that sets the teeth on edge. The performances are as good as your usual 70s horror. Harper gets along fine, but her supporting cast are shaky at best.

But it’s the direction, cinematography and editing that drive this along, and if that’s what you like, you’ll be jumping at the tiniest noises for the next week.

The Rose: Take 2

As promised by Nicky, the video for the Rose has been converted to black and white. But that's not the only change...

So you take a really dodgy, boring, cliche video. It's by Westlife. And you think 'hey, at least it's in colour this time. I really couldn't have coped with another b&w clip as well'. Well, they either can't read minds (or messageboards), or they can, and have gone against a riot of very outspoken commentary. Because yes, the video's in black and white, and rather than be classy, it's even more boring and drab than it was to begin with.

And not just black and white, oh no. It's the darkest black, the greyest white - in fact, you've got to wonder if they're trying to hide on that chequered floor so nobody knows who's actually made this bore of a video.

But they couldn't just change that, could they? Because not only is the second best part of the video gone, the best part has also been replaced and glossed over.

So where have the two hugging blokes gone?

Were they were beamed up by an alien spacecraft? Were they were sucked into hell? Were people other than me spotting the homoerotic subtext?

If so, I want to know what Mark has to say about this.

Don't check out the newest version of the The Rose on the Official Site at www.westlife.com

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Don't you wish you were this rich...?

THAT'S NOT PAD SHANE
Westlife Exclusive: Westlife singer buys Eur3Million English Mansion

Paul Martin

WESTLIFE star Shane Filan has splashed out EUR3million on an English mansion.

The singer bought the seven-bedroom home last month and will begin moving in next week, though he will keep his Irish home.

The impressive property, situated just outside South London, boasts a swimming pool, snooker room, private home cinema and a e50,000 security system.

But pals of the 27-year-old star say it was the huge gardens that really attracted Shane as they'd be perfect for his 16-month-old daughter Nicole. A pal revealed last night: "Shane and his wife Gillian are moving into the house next week. They are keeping their mansion in their home town of Sligo but this will be a base for them when they are in England working. Shane fell in love with the house as soon as he had a look round.

"There are also championship golf courses close by and he admits that was a big incentive too.

"And it has huge grounds. He and Gillian can even take Nicole for a swim during the summer in the pool. They will spend around six to eight months of the year there."

The singer is estimated to have earned around EUR15million since hitting the big time with Westlife.

But he is also a keen businessman, owning a share of a property development company with his brother Finbar. He also has a major share in the Irish franchises of the Morgan clothes stores.

Shane's new pad boasts a security system with 20 close circuit cameras linked up to a security office.

Each home in the private development is protected by 24-hour security guards and a sophisticated monitoring system. Entry can only be gained with a code.

Shane sold his apartment in Chelsea earlier this year because it was not suitable for family life.

And last night he confirmed the new purchase to the Irish Daily Mirror, saying: "Yes, it's true that I have bought a new house.

"I wanted somewhere with nice big private grounds for Nicole to play in and we have found somewhere ideal. Sligo is still my real home though."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Revealing Westlife

Female First
21.10.06


With Westlife due to release their new studio album on November 20th First thought it would be an opportune time to catch up with the guys and find out whats been happening recently, how they felt when Brian McFadden left, and a look back on eight years of musical success.

Shane, Mark, Nicky and Kian look set to romance us into Christmas this year with the release of The Love Album on 20th November 2006. The album is a collection of old favourites picked out by the boys and Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh. For one of the tracks, the boys team up with Delta Goodrum for a version of All out of Love. The album also includes hits like Total Eclipse of the Heart, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Easy and many more. Their first single, The Rose, is set for release on 6th November. Liz Frost catches up with them on their way to approve their latest video.

What have you been up to today?
Nicky:
Got out of bed about 11 o’clock and came into Sony to do some Interviews and we’ve got some meetings with our marketing department. We’ve just approved the final edit of the video for our brand new single. It’s in colour currently, but we’ve changed it to be black and white.

How was your recent Face to Face tour?
Shane:
Great! It was very long! We did a lot of dates, at the end it was quite tiring because we went to Asia and places like that. We were touring for about 6 months more or less, we did 3 months straight then we had a few weeks off then we were doing every weekend in the summer, we did 3 outdoor shows across the UK. Scotland Wales and England then we went to Asia for a 3 week tour over there. The crowd seemed to like it. We check our website and people seemed to think it was the best so far. That’s a good sign, but we have to beat that next year now.

Do you prefer touring or recording?
Mark: When you’ve performed the same show so many times it becomes monotonous, but then you go into promotion and recording a new albumn then back to touring. It’s sort of half the time touring half recording.

What was the highlight?
Nicky:
This year we changed it up a bit. We usually do a medley. And I think on this show, we decided to do something different. We usually do one of the Jackson five, Queen, we’ve done Wham, all sorts of things. This year for a laugh we decided to try and cover a modern song, so we did a version of Don’t Cha by the Pussycat Dolls, obviously changing it to boyfriend. It really went down a storm. A little sexy routine to it. You go on the sites and the comments were that they kind of liked to see us doing Don’t Cha. It was tongue in cheek, not like we’ve done before. Also the new single You Raise me Up went down a storm aswell. I think that song came at just the right time for us. I mean, every band starts to go a bit, then Bryan left and everyone started to write us off. Then we did the Rat Pack albumn and Face to Face with You Raise Me Up, which really took off.

What made you choose the songs for the Love Album?
Shane: The whole idea of the albumn was to do a tribute Love Albumn. When you’re going do an original album you have to get new material in. We had 4 or 5 songs that were decent, but they weren’t in any ways near songs like You Raise Me Up. So we said to ourselves we’ve got a standard. If we want to make an original album it has to be at a certain standard. Simon Cowell came up with the idea ‘Why don’t you do a Love Album? You’re famous for singing love songs so it’s going to suit you’ Simon had his favourites, Louis had his favourites. There are some great songs on there. The rose is a famous song, but it’s not that famous a song. It was actually Louis who chose it but Simon thought it was a great song, the perfect song to launch the album.
Nicky: There’s an interesting song on there too. There’s a song called ‘All Or Nothing’ That song was written for us 7 years ago, but Simon Cowell turned it down. That song was passed to OTown in the states and they had huge success in the States with it. We were quite gutted because we knew it was sounding very much like us. We have a bit of a laugh about it now. So we covered it on this Love Songs album. We do an acoustic version of it, it’s a lovely song.

You’ve been together 8 years, have you had any major squabbles?
Kian:
We bicker over stupid things, but we’ve never had a major bust up ever. We’ve got too much respect for the band to do that.
Nicky: All we’d have to do is look on Youtube at footage of us all having a laugh and it makes you forget about it.
Mark: A couple of times we were close to headbutts and kicks.
Kian: We tend to get worked up over travel, when we travel for a long time. We’ve been working very very hard for a few weeks, somebody would say something and it would be taken the wrong way. It would always be in a scenario when we haven’t been home for a while, we’ve been in eachothers faces for like 6 months really really working hard. It happened more in the earlier years than the later years, because we were younger and more feisty. Now we’re more grown up, it’s easier to say things to each other, There’s no winners when this sort of thing happens. What’s the point in rowing when we should be enjoying it?

When Bryan left, did you think it was all over?
Shane: To be honest, no. For about 10 minutes we were like ‘Oh no, what’s going to happen?’ We were only like 20 days away from the first show of a 4 month tour. We started rehearsals the next day and Bryan said ‘I’m hanging up my boots lads’. We thought we were being Punk’d because MTV Punk’d had just started. Then we had a 3 hour chat about it and we were like ‘Right, what are we going to do?’ Everybody wanted to carry on so we were just like ‘Let’s do it then!’ We had a big heart to heart. Louis drove over to chat to us at 3 in the morning for 3 hours.
Nicky: Louis was worth his weight in gold. He was like ‘It doesn’t matter. There are so many more years left’. If ever there was any doubt he convinced us. Especially in the aftermath because all the press were on Bryan’s side, everyone was like It’s Robbie again, when Take That were over. They went into our financial details. Bryan was worth more because of clever investments. But they were building him up in any way they could. It really got to us. It made us even more determined to succeed.

What do you think of Take That reforming
Mark:
There’s not enough Pop music around at the moment, So I think it’s great that old bands like Take That are coming back.
Kian:Most of the bands that are coming back now were around when we started off, and we’re like ‘ah now you see why we stayed together?

Will you ever break up ?
Kian: I don’t think we’d ever break up. We might take a break for a year or something like that but for the 4 of us to sit down in front of room full of people or on TV and say we’re finished for good. I don’t think we’d ever do that. I think we feel like we could go away for a few years and come back after that, but we’ve just had a renegotiation with the record label for another 4 albums and that’s after the next album, so there’s 5 more albums in our record contract. It depends really on how we’re seen as people. I can’t imagine us breaking up and never coming back.
Nicky: Obviously if we don’t want to do it anymore, we won’t, but the fact that we’ve signed this renegotiation; we can keep coming back and doing another album when we feel like it. I think we are at a level now, we’ve got through and survived it.
Shane: A lot of our original fans don’t like Westlife anymore, because they’ve got older and cooler and they’re going out with guys and that. If you came to one of our shows you’d be shocked, there’s Mums, Grans everything. Our average age of the show is probably 35 now. That’s the future, you know. Hopefully it will keep going.

Liz Frost

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's a Marvellous Day for a Wedding...

...but do we really need to see it in a Westlife clip?

We haven't seen a patented Westlife 'video with story' since... oh... Tonight. Nope, since then they've been too preoccupied with photocopiers, exploding televisions and corpses... oops, I mean Diana Ross.

The Rose is the return to the good old 'video with story', but it's a shame that this is the return. There's not nearly enough Westlife, and the Westlife that's there look incredibly bored and boring on their black and white chequered floor. It's like they've been shrunk down to the size of mice in the middle of someone's daggy 70s-style kitchen.

Unfortunately, the story did have a lot of potential, which makes it all the more disappointing. It's right out of the worst sort of Richard Curtis rip off and is about... a wedding. That's it. Bride hugs maid of honour, groom hugs best man, cute little girl holds up a flower, they get married, they dance at the reception. It's cliche to the point of being sickening.

The potential comes in when all the hugging's going on. There's a split moment where you think 'ooh! groom's gonna run off with his mate!' and while that may seem the ranting of a faghag dyke, the way the bride was hugging her friend was just as suggestive and would have made for a brilliant video - The Rose after all, is about the kind of love that brings you alive - and wouldn't it have been perfect if they'd discovered that the ones they'd really loved had been there all along? Not to mention being much more interesting and inclusive.

I'd rather watch the Seasons In The Sun clip again.

But you may watch this video if you feel up to it:

The Rose official video Westlife

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Birthday!


Today Nicky is a ripe old 28 years old!

He'll have dentures next year, and no hair. Yep, old age sets in that quickly. He'll look like that rhino by next year.

So all the best to Nicky on his birthday and hope the lads don't give you too much of a ribbing (even though they will). Just thank god you're not 30, lad.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Rose

By now, many of you will already have heard the brand new Westlife single track 'the Rose'. Yep, last week Westlife performed The Rose at the Miss World competition, along with the apparently eternal standard You Raise Me Up.

Now, if you all remember, I did a little pre-review of the album, and it's fairly apparent that the lads are getting more and more predictable. Because yes, I did get it completely right.

Observe:

This is one that I've actually got high hopes for. While the original is a bit... eh... boring, with a bit of fancy production it's got the potential to be another Westlife mega-ballad, in the same vein as Mandy or You Raise Me Up. There'll be no Nicky or Kian, then.

Fancy production? Check.
Mega-ballad? Check.
Shane/Mark duet? Check.

However, aside from all that, it is very obviously a cover, and very obviously business as usual for Westlife. As many fans have pointed out, "it sounds like You Raise Me Up"; "it sounds like Fragile Heart"; it sounds like... it sounds like... it sounds like...

The good old fancy production has come into play, meaning that this not only is in the vein of, but follows the exact same formula as all the other songs lately, most notably YRMU. You can predict everything: where the key change will be, when there will be a pause, who will sing what part.

That said, they do the song well. There's nothing wrong with their vocals - Mark is stunning, while Shane gets through with only a few minor trembles (remember we've only seen the live version, so that'll probably all be sorted out on the album). But it's the same thing, and not exactly a life-changing song - it just sits there, doing what it should but not much else. A bit like Nicky and Kian - are they even IN the band?

It'll probably be successful too. But there's a part of me that hopes it isn't, just to provide a kick up the arse for whoever's responsible for all this boredom lately.

Audibly pleasing boredom, but boredom nonetheless.

Here's the video.

Please note that I do not condone Mark's tissue-box hair.

Westlife The Rose

Friday, September 29, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth



Give us a little while longer, and the whole planet will either be dead or refugees of our own making.

Such is the message of Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'.

Yes, the 'little while longer' is more in the vein of fifty years, but to summarise Gore, a lot of things can happen very suddenly, and if we don't do something now, there'll be no way to stop these sudden events further into the future.

Following former presidential candidate Al Gore's compaign to inform the world of the damage that's being done to the earth through global warming, Gore's message is rather one of optimism than despair. The graphs and images he uses to set up the problem are frightening rather than lecture-hall tedium, and as he deconstructs the myths about our effect on the environment, a true story begins to emerge. Yes, we can make a difference - and the revelation is somewhere between frightening and uplifting.

The personal anecdotes are symbolic rather than soppy, and rather than get overly angry and irritating (a la Michael Moore), Gore's commentary is heartfelt, bold, and consistent.

Bugger The Omen - THIS is the most frightening film you'll see all year.

In Bed With Westlife!

New Woman

Danielle Hine discovers the dark side of the squeaky-clean lads of pop. Seriously.

Honestly, I tried and failed to hate Westlife when I met them. I concentrated really hard on it, but, dammit, they made me laugh far too much. A lot of people might think they’re about as cool as a Leo Sayer comeback, but when you’re jumping around on a bed with four cheeky chappy Irishmen with knicker-melting accents who are, shall we say, aesthetically pleasing to say the least, I deft any woman to give a shit about whether they’re hip or not. But you can imagine my joy when we gave them a ‘rock’n’roll makeover’ – helped by super stylist and Kylie’s pal, William Baker – with smudged eyeliner, messy hair, and a telly to kick in. But they’re far too polite, un-starry and no-bullshit to give it too much attitude รก la Babyshambles. And they don’t need to. They’ve sold 35 million albums – and counting. And like all good boybands, there’s one to suit everyone.

Nicky (27, married to Irish prime minister’s daughter Georgina) is a sweetie and the outgoing. Shane (27, married to Gillian and father to one-year-old Nicole) is the most mature and sensible, and Kian (26, going our with ex-Hollyoaks starlet Jodi Albert) is the cheekiest. Then there’s Mark, 26, who was slightly perturbed at how keen I was for him to become my new Gay Best Friend…

Boys – Franz Ferdinand said they make music for girls to dance to. What do Westlife want girls to do to their music?
Kian:
“Shag!”

Your new album is called The Love Album!
(they all laugh)
Nicky: “We should be called The Shagsters really”
Kian: “It should probably be called The Shag Album”
Nicky: “Yeah, we’re probably the best shags around!”

Any fave tunes for making lurve?
Nicky (to Shane): “What’s that song I always hear coming out of your room?”
Shane (perplexed): “What?”
Kian (dryly): “It’s Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, isn’t it?”
Nicky: “I thought it was Take My Breath Away!”
Shane: (resigned to the piss-taking) “Yeah, that’s it, man.”

The new album is all love song covers but have you ever waned to cover something cooler, like a Razorlight song?

Shane: “I haven’t got a clue who they are!”
Kian: “I don’t know any of the new rock bands because I’ve always listened to the old rock bands.”
Nicky: “I know they’re not a rock band but we did do a version of the Pussycat Doll’s Don’t Cha on tour. We turned it into ‘don’t you wish your boyfriend was hot like us’ with a sexy dance routine and lots of this…” (moves his crotch up and down)

Liking the sound of that! What’s the most rock’n’roll thing Westlife have ever done?
Shane:
“Jesus, we’ve had plenty of parties. We like to christen each country we go to.”

Talk me through the christening process
Mark: “We just get really drunk and dance and have a laugh.”

Westlife get shitfaced?
Nicky:
“We do like a drink – but the problem is that people like to leave the party before the bill is paid. So one of us always gets stung at the end.”
Shane: “If we go out on, say, a normal Saturday night we’ll probably spend about £1500 on drink. In clubs, especially in London, a bottle of vodka can be £200 and that’s the cheapest!”

Ever embarrassed yourselves at a really swanky celeb party?
Nicky: “The most embarrassing thing was the suits we wore to the World Music Awards in 2004 in America.” (the others nod) “We were in our Rat Pack phase and were wearing these 60s-style suits. They were brilliant but we did feel a bit stupid…”
Shane: “We got our picture taken with Usher and one of the papers said “It’s Usher and his accountants.” We really laughed at that. But when we went out that night we had thought we were looking the dog’s bollocks!”

On to saucier stuff – do your adult female fans wave filthy signs at your concerts?
Shane: “Of course they do!”
Nicky: “It’s stuff like “Come On My Tits, Nicky”; “Nicky Show Us Your Dicky”; “Give Us A Quicky Nicky”.”
Shane: “Quite often you’ll see “Let Me Taste Your Irish Cream”.”
Kian: “Or “I’ll Be Your Horse So You Can Ride Me”.”
Nicky: “And of course, “I’ll Raise You Up”.”

Do they proposition you in person?
Kian: “About six years ago a girl handed me a letter – she must have been no more than 16. It basically said: “do you fancy having sex with me, this is my number, call me”. It was awful being put on the spot by, bless her, this ugly little ginger.”

Mark, you can out last year. How did your fans react?
Mark: “To this day there’s been nothing negative – only support. And I’ve been with my partner Kevin for a year and a half. I’d spent so long wishing I was in this situation and that I had somebody but for loads of different reasons it wasn’t feasible. Then, finally I found someone. So since coming out, it’s been the best year of my life. Ever. I don’t mean to sound soppy but it’s true.”

Myself and Tanita on the NW art desk both want to be your fag hags. How can we achieve this?
(The boys snigger)
Mark: (looking a bit disturbed by my suggestion) “You have to be able to drink.”
Kian: “And be late all the time.”
Shane: “You have to be fabulous to be his fag hag.”
Nicky: “What does fag hag mean – just that you want to hang out with him all the time?”

Yep. Every girl needs a gay best friend. Anyway, what have you guys learnt about women over the years?
Nicky:
“Never ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless you physically see the baby’s head sticking out!”
Kian: “Just: Let. It. Go. Don’t bother arguing back. It makes life easier. Men just want to sit there, watch the TV and relax.”
Nicky: “And fart and scratch…”
Shane: “Women are very rarely wrong. I mean, they might be wrong but I’ve learnt to just go along with it and let them find out for themselves if they’re right or not!”

Lad’s, you obviously know the score.

Right, that’s us won over!

Westlife’s new single is out this month and the Love Album is out next month.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lady In The Water


True fairytales don't seem to be particularly high demand recently. It's either woefully shallow Disney-Pixar CGI, or some crap about a guy shooting a bunch of other guys over... I dunno... terrorism or something.

So when a truly magical film like this comes along, it's not wonder its box-office representation is not the best. And that's a shame, because when a truly magical film comes along, it should be mandatory viewing.

M Night Shyamalan's 'Lady In The Water' is a magical little story, the embodiment of the word 'fairytale' yet somehow pure Shyamalan. While there is no twist, there is an understanding that somehow everything is connected, that the story of the manager of a small apartment complex (Paul Giamatti) finding a water nymph in the complex swimming pool can somehow reflect the shortcomings of man, and the way a simple event can ripple outward to affect the world.

The film rests heavily on the shoulders of its cast, and the players provide the simple tale with deep affection and resonance. There are twists and turns - we'd expect nothing less from our director - but it's more about actions and their effects than any cheap reveals. Paul Giamatti is heartbreakingly believable as the manager-with-a-secret Cleveland Heep, and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village) as the aptly-named Story could be a nymph herself, her features are so beautifully expressive and ethereal. The supporting cast, as well, are stunning, and the dog-like 'scrunt' creatures are frighteningly realistic.

It's everything that should be expected of a fairytale. A few scares, an occasional laugh, a compelling mystery, and the feeling that you'e witnessed a transformation.

And as with all fairytales, the ending doesn't matter, just that the ride has been amazing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Excuse Me While I Vomit

Yep, the tracklist for Westlife's 'The Love Album' is now available, and while we thought the title was unispired and... well... a bit crap, the songs that are going to appear on it are even more vomit-inducing. Of course, we won't know anything until the album comes out, but here are my picks for the best, the worst, and the downright blasphemous.

1. You Light Up My Life (Debbie Boone) - one of the most sickly, revolting ballads of all time. Prepare for a snoozer, and probably Shane and Mark on lead.

2. Easy (the Commodores) - this one will be a duet with Lionel Richie, apparently. Well they definitely won't let Nicky or Kian sing on this one, if they already have to share out the lyrics. A strange little choice, and it's that which actually might allow them to pull this off.

3. All Out Of Love (Air Supply) - the fact that it's a duet with Mrs Delta McGoodrem is a warning sign right away. Add that to the fact that it's been covered a million billion other times, and by other boybands (Mercury 4, Human Nature), and you can expect this to be uninspired tripe.

4. Total Eclipse Of The Heart (Bonnie Tyler) - BLASPHEMY! They might actually get through on sheer nerve with this one, considering it's practically a death sentence to attempt such a phenomenally 80s song as this. They might actually let Nicky and Kian sing on this, but I wouldn't hold my breath. It'll be mostly Mark.

5. All Or Nothing - don't know it, will update once I find out. Google tells me it could be either a Cher song, or an O-Town song. I'm more inclined to assume Cher, but you never know.

6. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (Elvis Presley) - Bonnie Tyler AND The King? On the upside, this sounds like a Kian/Nicky song, and another that they might actually pull off based on sheer nerve. Still, it's a bit naff by today's standards. It'll be perversely interesting to see what they do with it.

7. The Rose (Bette Midler) - This is one that I've actually got high hopes for. While the original is a bit... eh... boring, with a bit of fancy production it's got the potential to be another Westlife mega-ballad, in the same vein as Mandy or You Raise Me Up. There'll be no Nicky or Kian, then.

8. Have You Ever Been In Love (Celine Dion) - Chances are they'll actually pull this one off. It's the right kind of Westlifey ballad, and likely could have been written solely for them. It's got all the right parts, and will probably work really really well, especially when they (ie. Mark) hit the bridge.

9. Hard To Say I'm Sorry (Chicago) - Oh boys, even if you're doing covers, you can do something original. Seeing as Az Yet already did a mega-smash version circa 1998, it's a pretty ambitious choice to try it yourselves. If you pull it off, there will be chocolates for all of you. Which is more than likely, seeing as their trademark harmonies will probably sound amazing.

10. Love Can Build A Bridge (The Judds) - Ooh a bit of country flavour! Despite having already been done for Comic Relief in 1995, this could actually be very good. And I do like my boys doing country. A really nice, easy ballad, which has the potential to be a massive hit as a single... assuming everyone's forgotten the CR version.

11. You Are So Beautiful (Joe Cocker) - the puddle of vomit in the corner is spreading, and it's not difficult to see why - it's physically impossible to have picked a more sickly-sweet, karaoke whiner than this. And I have no more to say on the subject.

12. The Dance (Garth Brooks) - They've already guaranteed us musical gold with this one, after performing it on this years tour. The new arrangement is absolutely beautiful, though my one quibble is that Nicky would have sounded a lot better on the second verse than Mark does - it's very his kind of song.

The album is released in the UK on the 20th of November

Monday, September 25, 2006

Stormbreaker

As a long-time fan of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, I was always going to approach this with mixed feelings. Excitement, certainly, but also trepidation. Because if anybody destroys my Alex, I swear to god I'll...

Ahem.

It comes as a relief that director Geoffrey Sax (the interminable 'White Noise') manages his material quite well. He lays the necessary groundwork (and there is a LOT of it, being the first book) in a way that is exciting instead of tedious and perfunctory, and he sticks enough quality action sequences in to drive the plot along, even though there is the occasional sense that we're stuck in a gyroscope after eating four hotdogs and milkshake, the camera moves are so erratic and vertiginous.

The script is reasonable enough, though Anthony Horowitz is a better author than he is a screenwriter. On the upside, it adds a bit of a personal touch, and calms down the rabidity that could result when fans realise just how much the story has been butchered. Whole scenes have been taken out or transformed, and even some of the character names are different (villian Herod Sayle becomes Darrius Sayle, and is American instead of Lebanese). Still, Alex's (Alex Pettyfer) adolescent spy stuff is believable and heartfelt, just what we'd expect from a boy who discovers his uncle is a spy and has been killed (a brilliant opening sequence starring Ewan McGregor), not to mention that he himself has been secretly trained all his life to take over the job.

The film falls flat, though, when it tries to be a little too cool for its own good. It comes off as a little too contemprary and disposable - hardly a work that will endure for years to come - rather something that'll keep fourteen year old boys entertained for a few hours. The use of music by the Gorillaz and Kaiser Chiefs may make the audience exclaim 'hey! I know that song!' but it feels too commercial and brings down the quite serious and dark tone of the story. The cast of Britain's finest (Bill Nighy, Robbie Coltrane, Andy Serkis, et al) lift it up where it falters and their delivery of the snappy, clever lines is a delight.

A good film, but not quite satisfying, though it'll keep its target audience captivated for a little while. And it's a shame because while what's there is a great night out at the movies, it could have been so much more.

Chart Position For This Week

None.

Westlife are out of the charts. I repeat: Westlife are out of the charts.

Oh well.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Number Ones Tour


This may be quite a short review. I've only watched this DVD all the way through twice since I bought it over a year ago, and the reason is quite obvious.

It's boring as shit.

Now now, you may say, that's quite a blunt way of putting it. Surely it must have some redeeming features?

Well yes, folks, it does. The medley, for one, is a cracker. Footloose is completely ripper, as is Pretty Woman (rock on Kian and Nicky!), Mark's falsetto on Disco Inferno and Don't Stop Til You Get Enough is divine, and the Beatles homage in I Feel Fine is absolutely genius. In fact, it's equally as good as any medley they've ever done. The singing is incredible, the dancing is lively and exciting, and the cheeky grins on their faces are to die for.

It's really too bad the rest of the concert is a complete downer.

Sure, the Rat Pack section is quite amusing, but it's less to do with the singing and performances that with the whole vibe. The lads play off each other, making cheeky (if scripted) comments and Nicky and Kian waltzing together has to be a slash-girl's dream! But the songs are a little boring, and if it wasn't for all the giggles, you'd avoid it completely.

The rest of the concert doesn't even have the giggles to get by on. It's one tired, 'greatest hits'-style song after another, sung in voices that sound almost completely bored. The dancing is actually too polished so it's got a sense of complete sterility about it. There are no new songs (this being the year of the Rat Pack album), so really, what was the point? Unless they're trying to prove both how bored and how boring they can be.

Even the extras have barely anything new, unless you count a section which allows you to choose between 'best' performances from previous concerts as something new and exciting. Which very few people do. And the documentary is barely long enough to raise interest - but that's okay, you have to buy the dualdisc of the album to get the whole doco anyway.

Give it a miss, and watch the Turnaround DVD again.

Friday, September 22, 2006

GO, Brian! GO!

The Mirror
September 22, 2006
Friday Eire Edition

BRIAN McFadden is on course to crack America after TV bosses picked one of his songs as the new Lost soundtrack.

The cult telly drama has a global audience of tens of millions and being linked to it could save former Westlife singer's sinking career.

Producers fell in love with the lyrics and tune of the track Demons, from the 26-year-old's album Irish Son.

The words are perfect for the RTE 2 show, which follows the surreal experiences of 48 air crash survivors.

The passengers must learn to fend for themselves amid the bizarre happenings on a deserted island.

It stars Matthew Fox as Dr Jack Sheppard and Evangeline Lilly as Kate Austin, pictured below.

And in Demons Brian sings: "Have you ever been lost in a different world, where everything you knew is gone?

"And you find yourself powerless? With everything that exists, you're numb. Will I ever break free?"

Speaking on ITV's This Morning show yesterday Brian said: "We got a video the other day where they have combined my music video with some action scenes from Lost. "And they're going to release it in America, which is great."

Brian has had more publicity recently for this relationship with his estranged wife Kerry Katona than for his music.

The pair, who have two daughters Molly, five, and three-year-old Lilly Sue, have had countless public spats.

Last week Kerry, also 26, hit back at Brian after he claimed she cheated on him with dancer Dan Corsi during their marriage.

But speaking yesterday, Brian spoke only of his happiness with new love Delta Goodrem. He said: "I've never been happier. We are madly in love, and she's my best friend too."

The Turnaround Tour


Live from the Globe in Stockholm, this gem was the band's first tour outing with only four members and, it has to be said, it's as if Bryan never existed. The lad's are completely exumberant, every note is top-notch, and not one foot is put wrong even though these dances are among some of the most complex they've ever had to undertake. There's a renewed sense of energy, as though all four of them are charged up to their fullest power.

The show starts with a wonderfully clever montage of Westlife - as cartoons - broken by Kian's wolf-whistle. The storm into the title track - Turnaround - and the energy doesn't let up for a second, even though the tempo might. It's a little disconcerting, at first, to hear Nicky, Kian and Mark fill the space Bryan's voice has left, but they don't put a foot wrong with it, from Nicky's 'My Love' to Kian's 'When You're Looking Like That' to Mark's 'Tonight'.

As far as the songs go, there's a surprise inclusion of My Girl (which hasn't been heard since the first tour), and the new songs 'Turnaroud', 'Mandy, 'Obvious' and 'On My Shoulder' are beautifully sung, the latter two makign up part of the usual 'flying above the audience' section, though this time they don't so much fly as strut, on a suspended walkway stretching out into the centre of the arena.

The 'breakdown' section is a particular stunning addition. Easily some of the best performances of the show, the lads present stripped down performances of some of their biggest hits with only a piano and saxophone for accompaniment, as well as Kian's frenetic guitar skills, of course. Their voices are pure and clear, and a way to take a quick breather after all the exhausting vigour of the opening set, though it's far from boring.

But the standout of the night has to be the medley. While the medleys of past years have been exciting little insertions into the grand scheme of the show, this one easily outstrips them all. It's bursting with crazed exhilaration, the four lads stomping, spinning and cheering to 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go', 'That's The Way (I Like It), 'Help!', 'I'll Be There For You', and 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love'. But rather than divide the songs between the boys as they did the previous year, this one feels like a real team effort, all of them playing off each other and laughing. And bloody hell, they do well singing too.

If you can only get one Westlife DVD... it's gotta be this one. An unmissible addition to any collection.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Greatest Hits Tour

Filmed in Manchester, the GH tour was the third Westlife had undertaken. 'WHAT?!' I hear you say. "Are you being a lazy bugger and SKIPPING a DVD or something?" Nay, I am not. Because instead of releasing the second tour (World Of Our Own) on DVD, the powers-that-be opted to release a Greatest Hits DVD with video clips and whatnot, to coincide with the Unbreakable release.

So, after a year's wait, we got this, the second of the concert DVDs. Of the third tour. Are you with me so far?

Anyway, this DVD, as said before, was filmed in Manchester. Though when I say 'filmed', I mean 'recorded on camera so some MTV dickweed could mess with it'. The camera work is distracting, using irritating freeze-frames and fancy blurring and whatnot, which serves more to conceal the actual concert than to highlight it. And the concert is such a corker it should be acrime to mess with it this much.

The two-years difference between this and the Where Dreams Come True concert highlights how much the boys have improved and matured since their first outing. The whole thing is built on a kind of 50s/casino/pop-art kind of theme. All five of them play it up, both the dancing and singing executed with obvious glee. The dancing is much more polished and less naff, and everything feels fresh instead of contrived.

The acoustic section, especially, is an utter treat. Kian and Bryan get their guitars out, a couple of musicians come on with the basest of instruments - a pair of bongosn and a bass, and the lads rip into it. If there was such a thing as guitar liberationists, they'd be dragging Kian off stage under fire from a can of mace to avoid him raping his instrument, he looks like he's so violently enamoured of it. Though that's all forgotten when Nicky, a proud smile on his face, screams out his lines of 'To Be With You', his voice a joy.

The medley storms onto stage, each of the boys finally allowed equal microphone time. Nicky's 'I Get Around' is a delight, a is Kian's 'Great Balls Of Fire' and Mark's 'Kiss'. But it's Bryan that really steals the show, with a hip-swivelling version of The Contours' 'Do You Love Me' that should come with a warning for younger audience members, and those less disposed to cheekiness. He belts out every note with a raw, raspy talent that the others can never live up to. It's a great swan-song too, as this was his last concert.

As usual, there's the 'flying over the audience' section (this time on a flat circular platform), though this is probably the lowest point of the show. While the songs are great - 'Written In The Stars' especially - it feels a little too drawn out and boring. Maybe you just had to be in the audience to appreciate it. The other drawback is that it's at this point that Mark's voice begins to give out. Slightly warbily through the medley track, it turns to a full blown screech as he struggles to keep it audible. It's a shame, because he's doing so well until then. And as he says in the post-show behind-the-scenes clip "My fucking voice is gone!". Too right, lad. Mayb

So, while this concert does have the occasional drawback, the concert itself is truly one of the great Westlife accomplishments. It's fun, cheeky, fresh, original, and reminds you once and for all that those lads can really belt out a good tune.

Extras: Full to bursting. There's a multitude of Easter Eggs, some of which are brilliantly hilarious (Shane struggling to pronounce 'pianist' is a highlight). There's a documentary following the tour through the lad's hometowns of Dublin and Sligo which is wonderfully candid, four video clips, two games, and the post-show behind-the-scenes clip.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where Dreams Come True

As many devoted and pissed off Australian Westlife fans will know, this week is the week Westlife would have been doing their Australian tour, starting on the Sunday just past in Perth. The Brisbane concert was scheduled for this Friday. So, in... erm... celebration of the concert that may still be, but possibly not, this week I'm gonna do a series of reviews. "What the HELL?!" you may say "Didn't you already review everything it was possible to review?!"

Nope. There's always more, with Westlife. Because of the tour, it will be the tour DVDs that are focused on - don't worry folks, there's only four of them. But if I'm sufficiently encouraged it's entirely possible that I'll do the non-tour DVDs. And by 'encouraged' I mean 'bored over the holidays'. Don't even get me started on individual performance. Believe me, I'll do it. And there are THOUSANDS.


So, let us start with this, Westlife's first tour.

Kicking off in 2001, the Where Dreams Come True tour was loosely called the 'No Stools' tour, in deference to the band parting ways with their tendency to sit on stools and wear black.

And, as promised, there's not a stool in sight. However, you've gotta wonder how many more ideas they couldn've come up with under the heading of 'things we can sit on that aren't stools'. Cars, large white blocks, metal towers... yep, it seems as though Westlife are simply not able to sing while standing up - maybe they don't have sufficient blood in their bodies to keep both their legs and vocal cords supplied at the same time. Who knows?

They obviously can't dance and sing at the same time, that much is obvious. Or should that be, simply, 'can't dance'? Certain members, in particular (I'm looking at you, MARK!) would put Peter Garrett to shame with their jerky, uncoordinated turkey-dancing. In fairness, Nicky and Bryan are dab hands, and Shane and Kian don't do too badly. Maybe it would help if they weren't trying to squish in every tiny molecule of BSB/Nsync into their performance that they can.

This is, in fact, the real drawback with the concert. It's their first concert, they're babies to the touring scene... what else can they do but try and copy everything everyone else has ever done? You can't tell me for a second those space-suits in the beginning are anything less than something nicked from the dumpster behind the Backstreet Boys' 'Larger Than Life' shoot? And if I had to get rid of any one thing, it'd be those irritating background dancers.

In fairness, though, they do a very good job, even though they look like they're not sure where they are half the time. Dancesteps are missed, certain people don't seem to have realised that vocal acrobatics are not the best thing ever (again... MARK!), the music director (Richard Taylor) hasn't injected anything close to life or originality into the well-known songs, but the concert is performed with such a sense of excitement and vitality that it's impossible not to sing and dance along. The lads have all their youthful enthusiasm (something we've not seen in quite a while) and look genuinely enraptured with the whole process. They play up to the crowd, mess about with each other, and close their eyes while singing in a way that is emotional instead of scripted.

But of course, we have to talk about the music. For the first and last time, the concert is packed with songs that are not singles. Rather than slip in a couple of new album tracks, the whole thing is chockas with fans' favourites instead of publicly accepted blandness. You Make Me Feel is a stunner, as is Dreams Come True, No No, and Somebody Needs You. The medley is a treat - Motown flavoured this year, with My Girl, Can't Get Next To You, What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted etc. Not to mention it's the introduction of the good old Westlife standard: flying over the audience. And this year they manage it on a metal frame (check out the pic) during the Flying Without Wings encore, which is quite simply stunning.

Not their greatest concert by a long shot, but certainly one of the most enjoyable, injected with an unavoidable vitality, making this a must-have for any fan's collection.