Album review: Louis Tomlinson debut album is a no-frills triumph

With his first release, the former One Direction singer sticks to his strengths

This cover image released by Sony shows "Walls," a release by Louis Tomlinson. (Sony via AP)
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Walls

Louis Tomlinson

3 out of 5 stars

(Syco Music/Arista Records)

Of all its five members who could have fretted over a life post One Direction, it would have been Louis Tomlinson.

After all, he was the band’s "quiet one" and was content to carry the tunes along in concert, while more excitable members, notably Harry Styles and Liam Payne, did most of the crowd work.

It is also of note that Tomlinson was the most vocal in expressing his desire for the band to not call it quits in 2016. Did it hint at his anxiety on how to navigate a solo career?

One thing is for sure, his decision to bide his time was the right call. It was a lesson surely learned from watching the follies of some of his former bandmates. When it comes to Zayn Malik, it was a case of too much, too soon: his burgeoning solo career buckled under the strain of impossibly high expectations. For Liam Payne, the lack of focus resulted in the dire effort LP 1, an ill-fated move towards raunchy RnB – sorry bruv, you are just not that guy.

With Walls, Tomlinson came to the most honest realisation of all: be yourself. True to his nature, the album is a low key and stripped back collection of tracks that bellies his love for Brit pop and anthemic rock. It is easily the most endearing solo release from all One Direction members. Just under 40 minutes, the songs breeze through and make use of Tomlinson's workmanlike rock vocals.

Kill My Mind is an amiable pop-rock tune that Robbie Williams would have sniffed at, while Don't Let it Break Your Heart is some of that honest to goodness balladry that the recently retired Boyzone took to great success.

With Tomlinson undergoing a traumatic period which saw his mother and sister pass away in the space of the last three years, the album's major themes are one of resilience and optimism. Fortunately, it is all done with a light touch and some of the results are moving. Two of Us is a beautiful piano lament to his mother in which he promises to "be living one life for the two of us," while Too Young is an understated folk gem about an early life spent on the fast lane.

It is that element of restraint that defines Walls. Unlike Harry Styles, who took on a more arty and bombastic rock approach in his two albums, Tomlinson takes on a decidedly old school path to his song-writing.

The lyrics to We Made It has a little John Mellencamp vibe to it, as it spins a tale of college love birds "telling each other what we dream about," before adding that "we were only kids, just trying to work it out."

The title track is an effective homage to his favourite band Oasis. The fact that Noel Gallagher is credited as a songwriter is down to the yearning ascending vocals in the chorus more than recalling Oasis's 1995 hit Acquiesce.

There are some cases, however, in which Tomlinson's insistence on keeping it minimal works against him. Tracks like Fearless and Defenceless needed some grit to suit its subject matter. Instead, they come across as meandering and generic.

This is something that can be addressed with his band when Tomlinson goes on the road soon. With the album finally out, we can expect an upturn in ticket sales before Tomlinson performs at Dubai's Coca-Cola Arena on Saturday, April 18. The man certainly has the songs to deliver a good night out for his UAE fans.

While Walls is not monumental, there are enough moments here to show a low key talent coming to light.

Walls

Louis Tomlinson

3 out of 5 stars

(Syco Music/Arista Records)