Album Reviews

Album Review: Take That – Progress

Take That – Progress

The new Take That record is called Progress for two reasons. The more obvious being the fact that the four piece is now a five piece again since Robbie Williams has returned to the fold. But the second, less obvious reason is that the band have moved on from straight-up ballads to fuller, layered songs. This is an album for the people who loved ‘Shine’ rather than ‘How Deep is Your Love?’. You shouldn’t expect the five of them to return to Nobody Else or Everything Changes. This is the adult Take That of The Circus made sparkier by the return of the self-imposed exile Robbie Williams.

I reviewed opener ‘The Flood’ last week, and it’s still as strong a song in the context of the rest of the record. It’s not that the band missed Robbie (‘Greatest Day’ or ‘Rule the World’ prove that), but that he brings something different to the table. The band worked with producer Stuart Price for the first time, and this is as much Price’s album as it is Robbie’s. This year, he’s worked with Brandon Flowers and the Scissor Sisters, and that kind of textured pop is evident throughout Progress.

Williams has lead vocal duties on many of the album’s better songs, here leading ‘Kidz’, which sounds nothing like his own ‘Kids’ (with Kylie Minogue). Perhaps there might be some sort of interpolation on next summer’s massive world tour? Gary Barlow shares the lead on ‘Pretty Things’, which may not have the power of a radio single, but is a gorgeous duet, and shows that Take That can still do understated as well as anyone. Closer ‘Eight Letters’ is the album’s only real ballad, and shows that Barlow still has both the vocals and lyrics to write a powerful love song.

The return of Robbie hasn’t alienated Mark Owen, who soars once again on ‘SOS’, a song which may outdo ‘Shine’. It’s got an infectious chorus and has a mean bass riff throughout. Williams’ verses work beautifully alongside Owen’s chorus, and the song is destined to be a hit. Owen leads ‘What Do You Want From Me?’, a well-written adult love song, showing once again that this new style of Take That suits the second youngest member of the band more than anyone else. Owen often doesn’t get enough credit, and his solo career is usually dismissed in favour of Barlow’s and Williams’ in particular. But there is no denying that ‘Four Minute Warning’ was a fabulous pop single, and this seems like the sequel to that tune. The album’s real highpoint.

The thing about Take That’s new direction is that there are a few missteps here. ‘Wait’ sounds like a Gorillaz G-Side, and actually feels a bit dated. ‘Happy Now’ is another wondrously upbeat song, but seems all meat and no bones – it is only saved by the addictive chorus. The Howard Donald-led ‘Affirmation’ is a middle of the road number, while ‘Underground Machine’ takes its queues from both Duran Duran and the Pet Shop Boys, but never settles on either. Hidden track ‘Flowerbed’ is Jason Orange’s only lead vocal, and is a bland, nothing tune.

Overall, the album represents something new from Take That, and features songs that will undoubtedly be huge in a live setting, but it’s only two thirds of a great studio album. It’ll be very interesting to see if the five-piece can stick together for a follow-up.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Related posts:

  1. Single Review: Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow – Shame
  2. Single Review: Take That – The Flood
  3. Album News: Take That – Progress
  4. Interview: Glen Phillips of Works Progress Administration
  5. Single Review: Nadine Coyle – Insatiable

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