It’s safe to say 2014 has been an incredible roller-coaster for Take That. From being splashed all over the tabloids for reported tax avoidance scams to releasing one of the fastest selling albums of 2014, from losing member Jason Orange to releasing Amazon’s most pre-ordered album in history, it’s safe to say it’s been up and down for Britain’s most loved man-band.
This week, it emerged latest single ‘These Days’ had become their twelfth UK Number One single and on Monday, their brand new album – their first as a three piece – ‘III’ was released. Here’s my track by track review.
1) These Days
A piece of pop perfection, it’s easy to see why this has quickly become a much loved Take That record. The relaxed intro soon transforms into a Nile Rodgers/Chic-style track with funk-like guitar riffs. It’s a song of optimism, of making the most of life and living for the moment and it’s irresistibly catchy. It’s also great to hear most of the song sang by the rich fusion of every member’s vocals, rather than relying on Gary Barlow to lead. A killer opener.
2) Let In the Sun
Take That go all David Guetta on us… except it’s far superior than anything the French DJ could ever produce! It starts rather softly and romantically with a blend of Barlow’s soft falsetto and deep vocals melting blissfully into the soft synthesisers. It then develops into a dance infused pop-rock track. It doesn’t stray too far away from the Take That sound, however, with acoustic guitars present throughout which save the song from jumping too far into dance-pop territory. It’s a song that, in a less dance-y style, could have fit quite comfortably on ‘The Circus’ album with its optimistic lyrics. Again, it’s a massive feel-good track which makes it a stand-out track from III.
3) If You Want It
We’re back to Greg Kurstin-infused-pop here and it works beautifully. It’s unmistakeably Take That – catchy, a little cheesy and utterly irresistible. In-keeping with all tracks so far, it’s bold, buoyant and a great, great pop track. The harmonies are on point too – Howard and Mark’s vocals are both crystal clear and give the track an extra dimension.
Mark Owen takes the lead on this catchy little number. It sounds like something you would hear a group of Frenchmen singing on a street corner in Paris with an accordion. It’s well-written and catchy but it’s the album’s first low point for me. It’s reminiscent of commercial American dance-pop music for me and I think that’s what puts me off slightly. It’s far from a bad track, however.
A softer song, this works perfectly after how full-on the first four songs have been. Gary’s falsetto flutters over the minimal instrumentation before a Barber-shop ‘ba ba’ Chorus launches in. It is 100% in the same vein of much loved single ‘Hold Up A Light’ with the energy and power the song has. The chord progression is suspiciously similar in places too… “Life slow down” croons Gary. Similarly to ‘Pretty Things’ from ‘Progress’, it address ageing and the progression of life but does a far better job of it. Whilst the chorus may lack any meaningful lyrics, the ‘ba ba ba ba ba ba ba baaaaaa’ refrain is utterly irresistible and the driving drum beat keeps the song lurching forward. Without a doubt one of my favourites from ‘III’.
6) Higher Than Higher
An even softer song, ‘Higher than Higher’ starts with a jittery, rather insane R&B production before the song steadies into a steady marching drum beat. There is nothing new or original about ‘Higher than Higher’ chord-wise. Many pop ballads have used identical chord-structures but it’s Barlow’s perfect vocal delivery and the production that make this beautiful song shine. It’s a song full of meaning, passion and it’s utterly beautiful. The sing-song melody of the chorus echoing into the coherent drum pattern cement this song in quite possibly one of Take That’s tracks of their career. A particular lovely feature on this track is Donald and Owen’s repeated ‘higher than higher’ harmonies in the last minute so which are rather bizarrely reminiscent of an African choir. It’s a lovely touch and another feature which creates sunset imagery. Another of my favourites.
7) I Like It
Take That go all Muse on us once more! It’s a return to the ‘Progress’ era and it’s absolutely bonkers. Think ‘Shine’ and ‘Underground Machine’ if they were to be mashed together and you arrive at ‘I like it’. The synthesised bass and minimal instrumentation make this song catchy hell. Just when you think producer Stuart Price has exhausted all technical improvement tools, a mechanical middle-eight kicks in, during which Barlow’s vocals are lowered in pitch to create a brand new voice. A fun piece of pop.
8) Give You My Love
A song that could have easily fitted in on the ‘Everything Changes’ album, it sounds like Gary’s been having a whale of a time messing around with the sounds and instruments on one of his keyboards. It’s also refreshing to hear Howard take lead vocals and it would have been nice to hear him lead another couple of songs on ‘III’. Pure and simple fun.
Clever production makes this create an ice-like imagery and it’s a rather pretty song. More than likely one of the ballads the band wrote after discovering Jason Orange’s intention to leave the band, the lyrics say it all; “Just freeze so we don’t have to start again.” The bass and drums on this make it sound pretty ’80’s’. Personal, heartfelt and emotive.
10) Into The Wild
Perhaps the most dramatic song on ‘III’ with tribal drums, Owen’s low vocals and a sing-along chorus. Take That have had a great time imitating other bands on this album and this one is Take That do The Killers. It’s undoubtedly a great song but one of my least favourites on the album. Whilst it’s catchy, it just doesn’t do anything for me.
A pretty piano-based Barlow ballad which sounds like an out-take from Gary’s ‘Since I Saw You Last’ album. To capture the raw effect, Gary plays around with his singing style and stands a little too close to the microphone… it’s a nice ballad but I prefer ‘Higher than Higher’, if you can regard that as the other ballad on the album.
12) Get Ready For it
The album’s second most dramatic song, ‘Get Ready For It’ (rumoured to be the second single) is a pop-rock stomper that closes the standard version of the album perfectly. It’s powerful, euphoric and a complete stadium anthem.
‘Believe’ sounds like an outtake from Owen’s solo album ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’ and Owen’s vocal delivery is fantastic. It’s an enjoyable song with a big chorus but the boys made the right decision to leave this off the standard edition and put it on the deluxe instead.
Take That do The Beatles! This couldn’t be any more different stylistically to the rest of the album and therefore it is understandable this has been demoted to a bonus track. It’s a gorgeous song nonetheless and it’s a shame this won’t take pride as a standard edition album track on a pop-rock Take That album. The harmonies are gorgeous, the instrumentation simplistic and the lyrics slushy. It’s unmistakeably Take That and very beautiful it is too.
15) Do it all for Love
A haunting closer to the deluxe version of the album. Mark Owen wails over guitar arpeggios and unmistakable Take That piano chords before the song develops into a dramatic power ballad. It’s a powerful, incredibly emotive track with a killer bridge. Reminds me of one of my favourite Take That songs; ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ which Owen performed lead vocals on to close 1995’s ‘Nobody Else’ album.
‘III’ is everything I anticipated and more. What I love most is the fusion between Take That’s pop-rock genre from ‘Beautiful World’ and ‘The Circus’ and ‘Progress’. It works wonderfully, fusing the meaningful lyrical content with electro-pop and experimental instrumentation to create an incredible, roof-raising album.
‘III’ is available now on Polydor.