Amongst the plethora of 90s boy-bands and pop groups, Take That are a definite outlier. Ending just shy of the millennium, the group reformed in 2006 with a comeback album that exceeded expectations and set them on a new path which is yet to come to an end. After a quiet six years, however, they have come back once again with new album This Life, and an approach that is somewhat reminiscent of where their comeback began.
The album begins with the slow build of Keep Your Head Up, a mix of water pianos, distant atmospheric synths and a heavy dose of the group distinct harmonised vocals. It’s an understated and beautiful introduction, that leads into lead single Windows. The aesthetic of this record is reminiscent of their 2006 release Beautiful World, incorporating more organic instrumentation and production technics, but keeping the tight and consistent pop formulas. The aforementioned song shows both of these elements perfectly and proves to be a good representation of the album as a whole.
The title track starts with jaunty pianos and pretty harmonies, leading to a pitch-perfect singalong chorus. Brand New Sun is Mark Owen’s first leading tune, as well as the first mid-tempo ballad on the album. It’s pace fits the hopeful message of the lyrics, talking of looking after one another. March Of The Hopeful begins with huge stabs of synth, but calms down for Howard Donald’s lead introduction. Another hopefully mid-paced tune, it builds to a euphoric middle-eight that subconsciously lifts the spirits. Days I Hate Myself sounds as though there’s some Police inspiration seeping into the instrumentation, while Mind Full Of Madness has hints of Stevie Nick’s 80s hit Edge of Seventeen. One More Word mirrors the opener to the album, letting piano and strings take the lead, before the closer Where We Are brings things back up for an upbeat and anthemic final number.
This Life is a well-executed and considered return for Take That, implementing elements that have made them so popular since their second coming in the mid 2000s. The album is packed with catchy pop tunes and delicate ballads, all of which are arranged masterfully and finely produced. It’s not an album that reinvents the group, but they have already successfully done that once. This is proof that the revitalised band are still able to create pop music of the highest standard.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.