I’m delighted we have some proper McFly fans in the comments crew – genuinely delighted, as I bounce off their chunky power-pop almost entirely and I would truly like to know what I’m missing. Maybe Tom Fletcher’s one of those songwriters like the late Adam Schlesinger, where I can appreciate the craft and thought that goes into their work but I can barely bring myself to like most of it. At least that’s the case here, with a follow-up to “Five Colours In Her Hair” that I appreciate as a step-up in important ways but end up liking even less.

“Five Colours” established the look, the puppyish attitude, and a sound for McFly – but not their only sound. “Obviously” is still jaunty, but a little slower and more rueful than the debut, without sinking into grungy self-pity as Busted had a wont to when the tempo dropped. Indeed Busted’s “Who’s David?” is the best comparison for what McFly are doing here – this is another 2004 hit about male woes and broken relationships, but one which refuses bitterness and ends up a lot more sympathetic for it.

If “Who’s David?” is the fight reflex, “Obviously” is a flight one – the singer’s broken-hearted and shamefaced about it, idly dreaming of just dropping everything and leaving for the States instead of staying around and having to live with his crush’s new relationship. That part feels real and heartfelt in a way that none of Busted’s cartoon laddisms or hand-me-down grudgefulness ever did. Which doesn’t make McFly better – cartoons are meant to entertain, and Busted’s often did – but it makes the difference between the groups clearer.

Where it loses me is in the sound of it. I don’t like Fletcher’s snotty rasp, but it’s not my biggest issue. He’s a writer with a deep love for studio craft – you don’t end up covering Jellyfish songs if you aren’t interested in layers and lushness and audio trickery. But at this stage in their career McFly have no apparent desire to make their records sound interesting. “Obviously” is mired in that post-Britpop ‘a busker meets a string section’ purgatory that’s home to latter-day Oasis – there’s an empty bigness to the way it sounds, a chorus which wastes the regretful tenderness of the song by turning it into a stompy singalong. (Though again I want to be fair to Fletcher’s craft: the chorus could also serve as a show of bravado to paper over the singer’s heartbreak. I just don’t think the song pulls that off.)

In the comments of the “Five Colours” entry someone compared McFly to Westlife – a boy band using the success of an earlier group as a template, pupating a following within an existing fanbase. There’s a lot of truth in that: McFly’s overnight success speaks to a deep understanding of how the 2004 pop game worked. But there’s one crucial difference – despise it as you might, Westlife had their formula right from the start. They were never going to meaningfully improve on their first records, and their way of approaching pop removed even the possibility of experiment. McFly, though, had aspirations, heroes, and what seems to me an audible gap between the records they were making and the ones they enjoyed. And in that gap lies possibility. Obviously, those records were out of their league. But maybe only for now.

Score: 4

[Logged in users can award their own score]