Review Summary: Very simple, straightforward but a truly interesting story
The new Take That album is a somewhat combination of what the band have ever done as a five. Dating into the past, one can remember their beginnings as a dance group loved mostly by young girls, as well as their transition to soleful pop-rock ballads after the reunification of the band, at that time, as a quartet. "Progress" combines almost all the above plus electrized and polyphonized music and has a somewhat two-dimensional structure. On one dimension, it is mathematically composed with each sound and beat clean and shine, full of electronic soundings, on the other - it is an autobiographical story of Take That which at the same time can be interpreted as the evolution of the global society as a whole.
The CD starts with the grand "The Flood", being followed by the apocalyptic and fatalist "SOS" which is continued by "Wait" which prepares the listener to experience the conflict section of "Progress" which sounds a bit Marxist: beginning by the protesting "Kidz", materialist "Pretty Things" and a cynical "Happy Now". The album finishes with the conflict turning into an idealistic consensus when Howard Donald tells us how he needed "an affirmation" and the final song by Barlow expressing "Eight Letters" which are very easy to identify and outline the unification of the whole Take That quintet.
"The Flood" is the first track from "Progress". Even though being nothing much new to the world of music, its lyrics and music were combined very well and the sound was very clearly expressing the flood. So well that in fact it is possible to understand the meaning of the song without even knowing a world in English.
The latter also can be said about "SOS" which may be understood as the heroes fall in a panic of uncertainty and despair. If heard separately from the whole album, the track may seem a bit too straightforward , so straightforward that it is easy to believe in what it is told in the song by the five. At the same time, without listening further, "SOS" still may raise questions about what it is doing there. Mark Owen and Robbie Williams have done excellent job with the vocals which perfectly adress the problem of the song and again, no knowledge of the language is needed to understand its meaning.
The "materialist" part of the album starts with "Kidz" which may be called one of the best songs in "Progress". Again, the meaning is very straightforward but the lyrics are awesome and are written with extreme reasonabless. The song attracts attention first by its title. It is often upsetting that some popular artists use incorrect spelling simply for "coolness" and due to trends in vogue. But not here. With such a meaning, such a spelling is even praiseworthy. Telling the listener about the consequences of the future with "the talking heads that took liberties" thanks to whom "the monkeys learned to build machines", the song underlines the impossibility of a somewhat alienation of the future generation by insisting that not kids but kidz will come our on the streets. By the way, there is a lot to come in mind given that after several months the track was released, political instability in the Arab world started.
From my own point of view "Happy Now" is an exceptional song on the album. On one hand, it is a track to dance on, however, on the other hand, it greatly outlines the rise of cynicism across the world together with massive alienation by "superheavy elements" which "replace" the lyrical hero. As a result, what makes "Happy Now" a somewhat "sociological" song is its extreme happiness to its extreme cynical plot, the former showed by music and the latter - by the lyrics. However, "Happy Now" clearly resembles Madonna's "How High" from her "Confessions on a Dance Floor" album.
Underground Machine is well recorded with the music resembling industrial factory sounds which perfectly fit Robbie Williams' vocals. However, it is far not the best track on the album and maybe it is the only song which meaning is really difficult to understand. At least, what is there for the underground machine.
As can be seen, there is not much written about the technical details of the tracks but more attention was given to their lyrics and the contents of the album which can come to mind as it is its composition what makes "Progress" so attracting. The album is composed of either collective or individual, separate stories by the band members which, in turn, slowly transform into a really nice coctail or a complete "macro"-story as the tracks are listened one by one.
Apart from all of the above, four stars out of five are given for the album and its songs for being very clear, straightforward, understandable and, at the same time, far not meaningless - this is what pop-music was created for, wasn't it? In Russia many would suggest that a good music is when a listener can understand the meaning of the album without even knowng a word in a foreigh language - in this Take That succeeded truly amazingly.
The album must be listened in full, with the songs not being stopped or scrolled. Again, it is like a continuous simple but interesting story in a book which is meaningless when read