Release Date: Nov 22, 2010
Record label: Polydor
Genre(s): Britpop, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Dance-Pop, Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock
Take That's first album as a quintet since 1995 is informed by two things: a genuinely new sound – shaped by electropop producer Stuart Price – and Robbie Williams's seamless reimmersion into life as a band member, which is played out on emotional duets with Gary Barlow and Mark Owen. Progress takes their sound closer to that of the Killers (the blaring arena-rocker Underground Machine), Scissor Sisters (the glam stomp of Happy Now) and even Supermassive Black Hole-era Muse (the alienated electro marching tune Kidz). The real surprise is that this unexpected step from comfy balladry to something more interesting sounds quite natural – the only element that doesn't fit is the free-floatingly doomy lyrics, which foretell unspecified personal and global calamities.
This is the true Take That comeback, the one where Robbie Williams returns to the fold for the first time since 1995. When he split at the height of Brit-pop, conventional wisdom suggested that Gary Barlow would wind up as the runaway solo star from the British boy band, but things didn’t turn out that way. Robbie wound up as a superstar, the rest of the band reuniting without him in 2006, then admirably settling into an unthreatening adult contemporary groove on 2008’s Circus.
[a]Robbie Williams[/a]’ once invincible solo career was held to ransom by little green men. The other four’s lucrative tours were merely a kind of all-singing, clothes-on Chippendales show. [a]Take That[/a]’s reunion, really, was as predictable as the monthly cycles of the majority of the 1.35 million who broke the internet buying tickets for next summer’s whopping tour.Yet since the five-piece dominated the early ’90s, the pop landscape has shifted, claimed by Simon Cowell and the lurid artifice of Gaga.
By posing in their birthday suits for cover art that imitates the iconic image of evolution from ape to man and then naming the album Progress, the newly reunited Take That would love to have us believe that their sixth studio effort denotes the culmination of their 20-year musical evolution. It’s not, but it does find the group making fantastic strides in a new and unexpected direction. In drastically trimming down the humdrum balladry that has won them their scores of swooning teenage groupies, the album certainly indicates the newly reunited quintet are changing shape: Gary Barlow’s songwriting leans toward some surprisingly dark bouts of synth-pop, which sound like a collection of postcards from a decaying futuristic dystopia.
An ebullient, daring album which sounds more like a fresh start than a final destination. Jaime Gill 2010 Enough has been written elsewhere about Take That's history (a humdrum tale of boys meet boys, exploitation and idolisation, dreams fulfilled and crushed, ruined friendships, success as vengeance, glorious pop and the furies of fame), so let's skip straight to the new chapter. If the title of Progress suggests the band's new sound will be a merging and evolving of Take That Mk.II and recent Robbie Williams fare, the reality is startlingly different.