A fine Progress-complementing EP from the 10-legged national treasure.
Nick Levine 2011
Upon its November release, Take That's first Robster-assisted record since 1995 became the second-fastest-selling album in British chart history and garnered the one-time professional mop repositories the most positive critical notices of their career. Although it's since sold more than two million copies – a tally only Adele could legitimately wrinkle her schnozzle at – it's also become that most curious of beasts: the buzz-free blockbuster. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Progress?
Consequently, you can't blame this ten-legged national treasure for trying to remind us that it's more than just the summer's biggest live draw – especially when, for a band playing the album repackage game, Take That are feeling pretty generous. Following a template that Lady Gaga looked to with her Fame Monster reissue, Progressed couples the original 10-track album with a second disc boasting eight brand-new songs.
Aside from nostalgic opener When We Were Young, which harks back to the group's pair of Robbie-free reunion albums, everything here sits comfortably alongside the original Progress chestnuts. Producer Stuart Price supplies the same electro-pop gloss and bombast; Messrs Barlow, Owen and Williams take a fair and square approach towards lead vocals; and the lyrics are frequently as cryptic as they are (unspecifically) apocalyptic. "We're waiting for the universe to end…" goes the hook to Man.
Also present and correct is the sonic spunk that earned Progress its enviable school reports. Love Love stomps like a petulant teenager in platform wedges, Man dips its toes in industrial waters, and Aliens is almost big and barmy enough to fit onto Gaga's Born This Way LP. However, Gary and the lads haven't forgotten about the lump-in-the-throat stuff. Towards the end come Don't Say Goodbye and Wonderful World, Pet Shop Boys-esque electro-ballads with sentiments sufficiently heartfelt and all-encompassing to appeal to anyone from Louis Walsh to Tulisa Contostavlos.
None of the new tracks is as quite as undeniable as Kidz or Happy Now, but neither does Progressed come off like a hodgepodge of offcuts from the original album sessions. Besides, it's hard not to be won over by the band's intentions here. For while Take That do need to sound this big – after all, they've got the movements of a 60ft mechanical man to soundtrack – they don't need to sound this interesting. Whatever the boys are doing to cool Robbie's itchy feet, let's hope they know how to make it last.