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Music

Review: One Direction prepares to disappear with ‘Made in the A.M.’

One Direction

The new album by One Direction is “Made in the A.M.”

(Syco via AP)

Like clockwork, they arrive each November.

We’re talking, of course, about One Direction albums. The British boy band, which formed on the U.K. version of “The X Factor” and quickly escalated to filling stadiums, has given us a new record every year since 2011.

Now, right on time, comes the fifth — and perhaps final — installment: “Made in the A.M.,” which follows the group’s recent announcement that it will take a break next year. In March, Zayn Malik quit One Direction, saying he wanted “some private time out of the spotlight,” then later revealed that he’d signed a solo record deal. It’s virtually impossible to imagine his former bandmates not doing the same.

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So “Made in the A.M.” arrives loaded with heavy-hearted farewell songs. Even if One Direction gets back together, an emotional opportunity like this isn’t to be wasted.

The most memorable of those is “Love You Goodbye,” a throbbing ballad about keeping a doomed romance alive for just one more night. (Like much of the group’s stuff, it’s designed so that fans might reasonably interpret the lyrics as being about them.)

“It’s inevitable that everything good comes to an end,” sings Liam Payne to start the tune, before Harry Styles, One Direction’s resident rapscallion, comes in wondering “why you’re wearing that to walk out of my life.” The dumper presenting himself as the dumped? Classic move.

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“Long Way Down” is quieter and more introspective, with strummed acoustic guitar and words about falling from a great height: “We had a mountain but took it for granted / We had a spaceship but we couldn’t land it.” The same goes for the delicate “I Want to Write You a Song,” in which Niall Horan promises to leave you with a melody “so any time I’m gone, you can listen to my voice and sing along.”

Awww.

Yet One Direction has always been best at its most lighthearted; the band’s offhand vibe is what sets it apart from its more deliberate boy-band predecessors. And on “Made in the A.M.” the group takes advantage of its nothing-to-lose position with a handful of cuts that feel even loosey-goosier than usual.

The ’80s-style white-soul ditty “Never Enough” layers tart horns and funny voices over a swinging 6/8 beat. “Olivia” is a breezy pastiche of mid-period Beatles gestures laced with studio chatter that calls to mind the Beach Boys’ take on “Barbara Ann.” In “End of the Day,” Styles recounts a romantic confession on a rooftop but winningly undercuts the drama by adding that it was “pretty windy,” so he’s not sure she heard.

You can hear a bit of abandon too in the swaggering “Perfect,” where Styles doesn’t even bother trying to disguise the fact that he’s addressing his ex, Taylor Swift. “If you’re looking for someone to write your breakup songs about,” he sneers, “Baby, I’m perfect.” And the gorgeous “What a Feeling” mines a soft-rock groove that probably doesn’t mean a thing to pre-teen One Direction fans born a quarter-century after Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” came out.

The standard edition of “Made in the A.M.” ends with “History,” in which the singers hint that the perceived perks of pop stardom — “the good champagne and private planes” — have begun to wear after five years of nonstop action. In typical form, though, the song might be the album’s most laidback, a rootsy campfire jam with hollered vocals and live-sounding hand claps.

“This is not the end,” they insist, even as they seem buoyed by the idea that it totally is. Come next November, the only ones not crying are likely to be them.

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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