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Ronan Keating is 'a bit nervous' about his comeback

Music review: the Boyzone frontman returns after six years with his new album Fires.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by PASTOR/SIPA / Rex Features (1822404d)Ronan KeatingFestas do Mar, Lisbon, Portugal - 17 Aug 2012
Mandatory Credit: Photo by PASTOR/SIPA / Rex Features (1822404d)Ronan KeatingFestas do Mar, Lisbon, Portugal - 17 Aug 2012

Ronan Keating
Fires
(Polydor)
****

Life, as Ronan Keating's biggest solo hit so presciently put it, is a roller coaster. Boyzone's frontman has endured a torrid couple of years, both personally and professionally. Lurid headlines about his private life were followed by the break-up of his 14-year marriage in April, while the band's most recent reunion tour suffered disappointing ticket sales, certainly in contrast to that other reformed boy band.

Keating probably is heartily sick of hearing about Take That – his troupe's initial inspiration and now in a whole different league - but the comparisons are bound to continue.

Fires, the Irish singer's first album of new material in six years, arrives as his rival frontman surfs a wave of popularity and looks set to become Sir Gary Barlow in the near future.

Once also feted by the press and public, Boyzone's fallen idol – now regularly labelled "love rat" Keating – admits to being "a little bit nervous" about how his comeback album will fare.

Thankfully, it has turned out just fine. Co-written with Gregg Alexander and Rick Nowels, the team behind Fires is a varied, often valiant mix of styles and moods. Admittedly, it begins inauspiciously with the title track – a hackneyed pop-rock anthem full of cliched platitudes – but from here Keating begins to push his musical boundaries.

Particularly interesting are Love You and Leave You, a euphoric ballad awash with novel production quirks, and NYC Girl, where Keating takes a Kylie Minogue-like stab at modern disco.

The lovely Lullaby, on the other hand, is fairly self-explanatory, apart from a contribution by the rapper Kirat Singh (aka KizMusic) halfway through. "I just want you to fall asleep tonight," sings Keating. Introducing a rapper is definitely an odd way of going about it.

Elsewhere, the now 35-year-old singer aspires to grown-up gravitas, occasionally appropriating classic rock movements along the way. Close Your Eyes begins with a decent approximation of the famous intro from Boston's More Than a Feeling – it worked for Nirvana, who did something similar with Smells Like Teen Spirit. And the car-friendly I've Got You, led by a U2-style riff, could well become a guilty pleasure for earnest guitar-band fans who wouldn't normally go near a Boyzone alumni's oeuvre.