Westlife's debut album was like an appetizer at Jean-Georgs, compared to the fast-food boy band music shoveled out on 99-cent menus. Their sophomore album, Coast to Coast, brings about that feeling of being overstuffed by a fancy main course and being offered dessert. At that point the quality of food doesn't matter as much; you're ready for the check. Even the Mariah Carey duet sounds rehashed -- is the best she would offer them a remake of her own remake of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds"? As was the case on their first album, the production quality is spectacular, so crystal clear that it makes the immaculate production of pop albums from just the last few years sound murky. The vocal talent here is powerful too -- bet your life savings that when the group fades into oblivion at least one of them will be jolted to higher fame. It is a familiar sight -- the trend that began with Take That, then shifted to Boyzone, then grasped by Westlife (who were mentored by Boyzone's Ronan Keating). It is as if the same group just keeps being reincarnated, but their age stays the same -- perhaps this is the United Kingdom's version of Menudo. While the money-minders of the record labels may not have a vision that extends much further from their earnings, their strategies have not artistically been in vain. Forget claims by those who pick favorites due to nostalgia. The music has only gotten better with each group. That is why, coming from a most promising cast of talent, Coast to Coast is so disappointing. It is stitched together with more of the same ("Angels Wings" is highly reminiscent, not in name only, of "Flying Without Wings"). Big, sweeping productions with graceful "oohing" and "aahing" choirs supplying the lead singers with atmosphere does sound exquisite, but it only goes so far when every song sounds like the last one. Whoever spends as much time getting the production quality just right has neglected to insist that the production sounds varied throughout. The songs are also not as memorable as in their previous work because the writing is so concentrated on one subject and sound. For evidence, notice how a later, stylish track, "Loneliness Knows Me By Name," kicks life into the album after a long, monotonous series of songs. "My Love" was also not chosen as the first single without good reason. It has the same lucidity as the best of their work. If not for their first album and the few really good new songs, Coast to Coast could have fooled anyone. There is a saying you may have heard, "Separate but equal." In this case, it is "Same but not equal." With every possible edge over the competition, it seems tragic that the producers and writers unconsciously chose that as their theme.
AllMusic Review by Peter Fawthrop
feat: Mariah Carey