Let’s get this out the way first: Louis Tomlinson seems like a genuinely lovely dude. His support for grassroots music – whether that’s chipping in to aid bands whose equipment has been stolen, or giving unknown artists support slots at his shows – is laudable, and clearly comes from the heart. It’s not really about clout, or reputation – it’s quite clearly just being A Nice Guy.
If anything, however, new album ‘Faith In The Future’ is simply too nice. The songwriting is sturdy and well-formed, leaning on his indie roots – you can hear ghosts of the Gallaghers, whispers of Chris Martin – without ever truly channelling something dangerous, or edgy. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable: moving and well-formed, his gift for melody means that as a listener you never stray too far away from the beaten path. Rather, it just doesn’t raise the pulse, or quicken the blood-flow in a way you might long for.
As a whole, the record has a late 90s feel; a production element in vogue right now – we’re looking at you, Olivia Rodrigo – this time round, it’s more ‘Angels’ than ‘good 4 u’, though. Opener ‘The Greatest’ is an earnest singalong, but ‘Written All Over Your Face’ raises the tempo a little with its wiry guitar lines. The choppy ‘Lucky Again’ has a festival feel, while engaging rocker ‘Face The Music’ has a kind of Stereophonics crunch.
The pace doesn’t last, however. ‘Chicago’ is very ‘Wonderwall’ in its plodding acoustic framework, and ‘Headline’ aims for those Coldplay-style stadium atmospherics. It’s all perfectly pleasant, but you end up yearning to an injection of… well, anything, really.
Spread across 16 tracks, ‘Faith In The Future’ can at times become stuck in formula, failing to rock the boat in the process. Indeed, some of the latter album highlights do exactly that – the ravey atmospherics on ‘She Is Beauty We Are World Class’ stick out a mile due to their scarcity.
Closing with the heart-on-sleeve conversational lyricism of ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’, it’s a record that entertains, but doesn’t surprise. In terms of fan service, it’s expertly tailored, its emotional peaks and dips building into a soothing narrative. There’s a feeling, however, that Louis Tomlinson is working in an increasingly packed field, offering fairly blokey songwriting introspection a la the two Toms: Grennan and Walker.
Perhaps that’s damning with faint praise, however. Pleasant and well-formed, ‘Faith In The Future’ is perfectly nice – but is that enough…?
Words: Robin Murray