Sony – 2004 – 41 minutes

It has been a roller coaster year for Brian McFadden. First, his highly publicised split from Westlife and then the breakdown of his marriage ensured he stayed in the limelight. His solo album chronicles some of that journey in songs that are powerful and memorable.

McFadden's look and sound is a million miles away from what it was with Westlife. The slick, clean-cut image is replaced by long hair, baggy t-shirts and jeans and his music is edgier and more in-your-face than the pop tunes of his earlier career. He's looking to be taken seriously, wanting us to believe that he's now an earnest musician with something important to say.

He succeeds, to an extent. Listening to the album, his songwriting talent stands out. Having penned some of Westlife's numbers, plus songs for the Eurovision, we knew he could write popular songs. Here, he writes predominantly with Guy Chambers, Robbie Williams' former writing partner and the difference is that the lyrics are very personal and heartfelt. 'Sorry Love Daddy', an apology to his children for the failure of his marriage to their mother and 'Almost Here', a duet with Delta Goodrem, about an unsatisfactory relationship, showcase McFadden's talent for writing raw emotion.

He's also got a social conscience. The irreverent title track 'Irish Son' chronicles his disaffection for the Catholic Church and gives a voice to others who feel the same kind of disillusionment. His battle with drink has also allowed him to write quite profoundly on the subject with 'He's No Hero' talking about a son learning from his father's mistakes and 'Pull Myself Away' detailing the addictive nature of alcohol.

But despite the fact that each of his songs is memorable, there's an element of unreality about his attempt to recreate himself as a serious musician. We can't quite take him seriously, particularly when we hear 'Real to Me', an unfortunate choice for a first single, given the way things turned out.

We may feel he's being hypocritical with 'Real to Me', but there's no denying that 'Irish Son' is a memorable debut. While we can't take him seriously just yet, at least he can be comfortable in the knowledge that he has more credibility than certain other ex-boy band members. Brian McFadden will probably still be around long after Westlife have split up.

Katie Moten

Tracklisting; Irish Son – Real to Me – Demons – Lose Lose Situation – He's No Hero – Sorry Love Daddy – Pull Myself Away – Be True to Your Woman – Walking Disaster – Walking Into Walls – Almost Here (duet with Delta Goodrem)