Apparently there’s no minimum wait before a boy band is allowed to release a legacy album. Since their first X-Factor audition, One Direction have waited a whole four years before releasing theirs. It’s called Four, and it sees the aging quintet of 20-to-22-year-olds look back, misty-eyed, over their long and winding careers.
A One Direction record traditionally opens with a made-to-order blast of tub-thumping teen pop that glues itself to your eardrums for months at a time. First it was 2011’s “What Makes You Beautiful”; then “Live While We’re Young” (2012); and then “Best Song Ever” (2013). Right on schedule, Four follows suit with “Steal My Girl”, complete with an abrasively catchy hook and lashings of Auto-Tune. It’s their most mature single to date, mind, with a piano ostinato to prove it.
This is succeeded by a totes emotional elegy to lost youth: “I want a love like you made me feel when we were 18,” the yearning lyrics to “18” go, accompanied by arthritic strums of the acoustic guitar. We witness a crucial development here as the boys shed their naiveté in wistful nostalgia for those oh so distant months of 2010.
A departure from pubescence goes on to form the central theme of the record, even where the more lachrymose tracks join stompier ones like “Girl Almighty” and “No Control”. A strong US influence is found in their accents of Springsteenesque mock-rock and their Bon Jovi-ish choruses. These excursions are only half-hearted, however, the result being a dilution of the bubbly 1D formula into a conservative mush of “woah-ohs”.
But conservatism comes with age after all. For their slumberous sign-off with “Night Changes” the boys stroke the bumfluff on their chins and croon: “we’re only getting older, baby”. Perhaps it’s time for a graceful retirement.