Despite scoring a number one with his debut single, "Real to Me," both in the U.K. and Ireland, former Westlife vocalist Brian McFadden's solo ambitions came to an abrupt halt following his much-publicized split with ex-Atomic Kitten star Kerry Katona, who at the time was very much the nation's sweetheart. However, since moving to Australia with former Neighbours star and MOR balladeer Delta Goodrem, where he's no longer perceived as the villain of the piece, his career has received an unexpected second wind. Following 2008's Top Five sophomore Set in Stone, he returns for his third studio release, Wall of Soundz, which as its retro sci-fi cover art suggests, finds McFadden rather belatedly jumping on the whole '80s synth pop bandwagon. Initially intended as a side-project with U.S. producer Rob Conley (Darren Hayes), its 11 tracks do indeed sound like they've been recorded by an entirely different artist from the one previously responsible for two albums of early Robbie Williams-influenced acoustic pop. He just about gets away with this rather calculated reinvention on "Just Say So," a highly infectious party number featuring multi-instrumentalist Kevin Rudolf, which has already topped the charts in his native homeland, the slinky glam-disco of "Kickin' Around Our Love," and the pulsating techno riffs of "Chemical Rush." But he's less successful on the chaotic, prog rock-inspired closer "When You Coming Home," the soppy boy band ballads "Mr Alien" and "Now We Only Cry"; and "Not Now," the corny Eurovision-esque duet with Amy Meredith lead singer Christian Lo Russo. Indeed, the album's stand-out track, "Mistakes," a bombastic duet with wife Goodrem which owes more than a nod to Coldplay's "Clocks," could have been lifted from either of his first two releases, proving that McFadden is a far more enticing prospect when he moves away from the excessive use of Auto-Tune and layers of generic electro production. Whatever its shortcomings, Wall of Soundz is still a much more rewarding listen than any of the albums Westlife has recorded since his 2005 departure, but for the most part, it's a rather faceless and repetitive affair which appears to have gate-crashed the whole retro dance-pop scene a little too late.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien