Album review: Take That – III

When III – the band’s seventh studio album and their fourth in the revival years – was released in Britain last month, it went straight to the top of the charts. But is it any good?
From left, Mark Owen, Gary Barlow and Howard Donald, the remaining members of Take That. Dave J Hogan / Getty Images
From left, Mark Owen, Gary Barlow and Howard Donald, the remaining members of Take That. Dave J Hogan / Getty Images

III

Take That

(Polydor)

Two stars

It has been a tricky year for Take That, the British pop band who broke up in 1996 but roared back to life a decade later. Sell-out tours and big-selling new material have punctuated the group’s comeback era – just like they did during their 1990s heyday – but 2014 has not been especially kind.

Robbie Williams announced in April that he had left the band for the second time. In September, Jason Orange also walked away, saying he no longer wanted “to do this”.

Meanwhile, Take That’s three remaining members – Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen – were accused of hiding millions of pounds of earnings in “aggressive” tax-avoidance schemes. This incident touched a nerve in the UK, which is still slowly recovering from the ill-effects of the financial crisis.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, led the chorus of condemnation, while another British politician suggested Barlow should return his OBE – awarded by the Queen in 2012 for services to music and ­charity – and said he lacked contrition.

Oddly though, none of that seems to have slowed down Take That’s commercial juggernaut. When III – the band’s seventh studio album and their fourth in the revival years – was released in Britain last month, it went straight to the top of the charts. But is it any good?

There’s a fin de siècle feel to These Days, the album’s lead single. Matters don’t get much better on the sickly Let in the Sun, an upbeat dance track that seems to have been hewn from another era.

If You Want It brings no great improvement, and by the time Mark Owen asks “do you really love life?” on Lovelife, it is tempting to say “I used to” in reply.

Matters begin to improve with Portrait, which trails a Keane-lite vocal, but it is Flaws that provides the album’s best moment. Its low-tempo arrangement finds Barlow singing about darker times and imperfections. It’s a beautifully arranged song. Overall though – and this may not be surprising given Take That’s year of trouble – III all feels a little flat.

Former band mate Robbie Williams also has an album out this month. A collection of B-sides, outtakes and previously unreleased material, Under the Radar Volume 1 is only available from the singer’s website.

While that sales pitch may sound terribly unpromising, it turns out to be a little treasure. If III feels dowdy and tailor-made for dad-dancing, Under the Radar sounds inventive and relevant. If I had to choose between the two, I’d take this and not that.

nmarch@thenational.ae

Published: December 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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