Monday, December 6, 2010

Album Review: Take That 'Progress'

A bit of history: I became a fan of Robbie Williams in 2000 after I received a copy of his album 'Sing When You're Winning' for my birthday. I've been wearing my RW fan badge with pride ever since. Considering I'm too young to remember Take That v1.0, in a span of 10 years I went from: not knowing who the hell they were, knowing they sang 'Back For Good', knowing that Robbie left the group in 1995, listening to their greatest hits and finally liking and accepting them as a four piece. So when news broke that Robbie Williams was rejoining them, I was aghast. I like my Robbie solo and my TT as a four piece.

I would like to officially state, for the record, that I'm now on board for TT v 3.0 (or v1.0 mark 2). And it's all because of 'The Flood'. It doesn't quite sound like TT, nor does it sound like Robbie's last record. In fact, much like the rest of 'Progress', it's the best of worlds, shaken up Bryan Brown Cocktail style, and presented in the most delightful fashion. 'The Flood' is epic in all sense of the word and although there isn't anything else like it on the rest of the album, it makes sense as the opener. 'SOS' and 'Kidz' are upBEAT. The drums are loud as are the choruses (catchy as hell). It's been said a million times in other reviews, but you can hear the Muse influence at play here. If they choose to cover the band on tour, I vote 'Undisclosed Desires' or 'Neutron Star Collision' (But they'll probably incorporate 'Uprising'). Similarly, Robbie's 'solo' track 'Underground Machine' is in this dystopic rock style. And yes, I just made that genre up. :D

There's even hints of hip-hop influences in 'Wait'. At first, I didn't like it, but that chorus is just... catchy. And that's the thing with every track on the album. If the verse or bridge is dull, the choruses come to the rescue. Not saying that's a bad thing at all though.

The middle tracks 'Pretty Things' and 'Happy Now' have this Bee Gees esque ness about them, especially the latter. 'Pretty Things' has this 'We-are-starring-in-a-period-drama-produced-by-BBC'. I lol'd at first, but it grew on me considerably.

'Affirmation' and 'Eight Letters' are really amazing tracks that round off the album. 'Flowerbed' as the finale is sweet as and that second chorus when the beat really kicks in is sort of heartbreaking.

The ultimate standout track for me here is Mark Owen's solo track 'What Do You Want From Me?'. Over the past three days since I've listened to the album, I find that it's the one track I keep coming back to. It's uplifting and sweet but also again, heartbreaking. You can hear the emotion in his voice- he means every word he's singing. I can just imagine the video for this: close ups of him, black and white, fists in the air and pulling it down to his chest. Sadly, this track also contains the cringeworthy lyric of 'I still want to have sex with you' which I like to block out every time. However, I think, in the spirit of this album's concept, that these are men who are in their late 30s and early 40s- they are not teenagers. If they can't sing about sex, then who can?

Without a doubt, this is one of the best album's of 2010 for me. With the help of Stuart Price, the group have moved on...yes, they've made progress from they boys they once were to men who are scared, happy, nervous, asking for forgiveness. Whether Robbie stays or not is the point here; it's how they can take this sound and evolve it.

Verdict: 4.5 Takes out of 5 Thats.
Standout Tracks: The Flood, SOS, Kidz, What Do You Want From Me?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Track of the Day: Coldplay 'Christmas Lights'

There was much hoopla and hype surrounding this new release from Coldplay. I ignored all that in order to listen sans bias so I'm hoping this review would be significantly less peppered with my fangirl judgement.

It's a Christmas track, and as we know from my previous post, there are really only a few Christmas songs I need (count em: 3). But I think this one may quickly be working itself into that exclusive group. NOT JUST BECAUSE IT'S COLDPLAY.

To be honest, I didn't love it straight away. The chorus isn't catchy and the melody (or tempo) changes midway. I think it's a case of '42' for the band again, where they wanted to have one song but make it sound like 2 different tracks. It worked for 42, but I'm not sure if it works for 'Christmas Lights'.

Another thing that struck me was the use of lyrics from another new-ish song that they had previewed on 'The South Bank Show' doco called 'Wedding Bells'. At first, I thought it was clever, but then I thought, well, what if this means that they've shelved the latter? I hope I'm wrong. The lyric in particular is 'I always loved you and I always will'. *melts*

Having said that, and giving the song repeated listens plus a day to sink in, I actually really love the track. It's not close to my favourite Coldplay songs, but the lyrics are really interesting and sweet. The opening piano bars sort of remind me of 'The Black Parade' by My Chemical Romance, there's a kind of sweet melancholy and nostalgia there, the kind normally associated with Christmas time. I know some reviews have said it's more 'Nightswimming' by REM but I've never really heard it, so I can only compare to what I know. At some points, in kind of soars, so it's perfect for a drunken Christmas singalong.
It veers towards the sweet and wintery rather than the cheesy and lame that a lot of Christmas songs can fall prey to. Well worth a listen. And the video is very well done too. Reminds me of 'Don't Panic' in a way.
Verdict: 7.5 Santas out of 10 Clauses