Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Fun, mature pop!
on February 19, 2011
I LOVE this album.
I've never been a fan of Take That...traditional boyband stuff was just never my thing -
HOWEVER, I did fall in with once-former-now-returned Robbie Williams' solo work some ten years ago, when he began with his guitar-rooted, Oasis-emulating phase (loved them as a teenager) and he is probably the reason I came around to liking straight-up pop music at all (as opposed/in addition to popular & classic rock bands and indie). He's interesting, he's evolved, very flawed and philosophical about it - and LOVES to talk about this with lyrics that are poetry (occasionally somewhat bad poetry, lol - but if you love him, it's enjoyable regardless) - and his best vocal moments are very raw & emotionally genuine. He appreciates a lot of pop genres - past , present & future - and plays around with them all, and has been incredibly successful with that approach pretty much everywhere but in the US.
ANYWAY - this album marks the return of Robbie to the fold of Take That - the band he quit/was fired from 15 years ago due to his substance abuse problems, forcing the band itself to break up shortly thereafter. Robbie of course went on to become a huge solo star - and the band ultimately reformed without him around 2006 and made some great records, evolved from their old cheesy stuff, but still pretty much bland adult contemporary (in my opinion) - though of high quality. Remarkable was that this band - 90% a dance act that got their start in gay clubs and wooed teen girls across the globe - made the leap from being typical manufactured dance/harmony-bots and began to take control of their own creative destiny and become a true band, more than a decade after they'd disbanded.
Robbie's return has brought further legitimacy to their control over their work, and there's a lot of his flavor on the record. He's always had an ability to deal with complex ideas in a simple, catchy, mass-consumable way (which shows more intelligence, not less, for not being esoteric, in my opinion). It's why he's a huge pop star.
Thanks to Rob (and to the chagrin of some TT fans, probably), this is not an album that panders to a swooning audience, but showcases the points-of-view & experiences of its makers. And they are a bunch of British guys with working class roots, aged 37-42, contemplating aging, social anxiety, mature relationships, their collective pop past and the fate of the weird world we all now live in. Many songs have a lot of Robbie's trademark paranoia, grit & darkness lodged within, but the songs are still polished into fine pop confections - many dancey & beat-driven with a couple of bigger ballads. The harmonies they excel at persist, and you can tell it's not truly the Robbie Show - everyone bought in to the 'Progress' concept, contributed, and is having a great time with it. It's a fun pop record, which works on both shallow & deeper levels.
After a great flow of tracks from "The Flood" to "Underground Machine", 'Progress' hits a bit of a wall with "What Do You Want From Me" - Mark Owen's song, which could've used more refinement from its slightly too raw & personal state. It's a bit of stumbling block to get past, with the remainder of the album's tracks - except the sappy glory of "Eight Letters" - notably lacking Robbie's songwriting vigor. But at that point, if you've fallen for the redemptive story of the reformation of Take That, you overlook weakness and are interested to hear the stripped down POVs Gary, Mark, Howard & Jason have to contribute, too.
It's a really good album if you like strong pop albums. It's a GREAT album if you're a Robbie fan, and/or are willing to dive into the overall Take That story behind it all.