Take That | This Life Review
by Bea Willis
Take That’s ninth album is my latest embarking through the auditory odyssey that is their album, This Life. I find myself transported into a world that feels both familiar and bland. From the first notes, there’s a subtle lift in spirits, a kindling of warmth that’s akin to the gentle comfort of a well-worn sweater. It’s not about grand gestures or sweeping emotions; rather, it’s the charm of understated melodies and relatable lyrics that speaks volumes.
What strikes me most about This Life is the band’s evolution, mirrored in the sophisticated textures of the music. Gone are the days of youthful exuberance, replaced by a more refined, introspective approach. Take That, once the heartthrobs of a generation, now stand as wise sages, narrating tales of life’s simple pleasures and inevitable challenges with a lyrical finesse that only comes with experience.
Gary Barlow’s songwriting skills are on display throughout the album. His ability to craft melodies that resonate with a sense of comfort and familiarity is begins strong, but fads as the project progresses. The album’s opener, “Keep Your Head Up,” sets a contemplative tone. Layers of vocals intertwine with a delicate piano motif, creating an atmosphere that’s introspective yet hopeful. It’s a solid blend of musical elements that evokes the image of raindrops on a window, each note a reflection of introspection and resilience.
In the title track “This Life,” there’s a poignant acceptance of life’s uncertainties, delivered with a camaraderie that’s comforting and encouraging. It’s as if Barlow, along with Howard Donald and Mark Owen, are old friends offering a shoulder to lean on.
In “Windows,” the trio taps into a Seventies soft rock vibe, reminiscent of bands like America. The casual electric guitars and falsetto yearnings in this track are a nod to a bygone era, yet they feel entirely relevant in today’s world. The song “March of the Hopeful” is another standout, with its anthemic chorus that feels like a rallying cry for optimism.
The emotional depth of the album is somewhat explored in “Mind Full of Madness,” a track that reveals the trio’s ability to handle more profound, personal themes. The reference to Barlow’s personal tragedy imbues the song with a raw, heart-wrenching honesty that is both brave and touching.
In “Days I Hate Myself,” the blend of a slightly spiky vocal line with a lonely keyboard melody showcases a nuanced understanding of musical contrast. And in “The Champion,” there’s a lyrical maturity that speaks to the band’s growth, both as musicians and individuals.
In the realm of music, every album is a story, a journey through the creative minds of its creators. Take That’s “This Life” starts with a promise of enchantment in “Keep Your Head Up,” a track that truly captivates with its melodic grace and mesmeric allure. This song stands as a beacon of what the band can achieve – a blend of gorgeous melodies and heartfelt lyrics that resonate deeply.
However, the journey of This Life is not without its pitfalls. As the album progresses, there’s a noticeable shift in tone and quality. The vocals, once a harmonious blend, begin to feel strained, losing some of the charm that initially draws the listener in. The lyrics, aiming for emotional depth, occasionally miss the mark, resulting in moments that feel uncomfortably forced rather than genuinely poignant.
The latter part of the album especially struggles to maintain the initial momentum. Here, the songs venture into a territory that feels overly saccharine, reminiscent of fairy-tale simplicity rather than the nuanced storytelling expected of the seasoned band. This shift is jarring, detracting from the overall coherence and impact of the album.
It’s in these moments that one can’t help but reflect on the evolution of Take That. From a dynamic five-piece to the trio of Gary, Howard, and Mark, the band has undergone significant transformations. With “This Life,” it seems the band is at a crossroads, grappling with their musical identity in a landscape that has evolved since their inception.
In conclusion, This Life is an album of contrasts. It opens with the promise of beauty and emotional depth, yet struggles to maintain this throughout its duration. For longtime fans of Take That, there are glimpses of the band’s former brilliance, but these are overshadowed by moments that feel less inspired. As harsh as it may sound, this album might signal a moment for reflection and perhaps a reevaluation for the band, as they navigate their place in the contemporary music scene.
Release Date: November 24, 2023
About the author
With an unwavering passion for music that began at the tender age of five, I embarked on a journey of self-expression through the piano, later expanding my repertoire to the guitar and the art of singing. As a seasoned performer in cozy coffee shops and harmonious choir ensembles, I've immersed myself in the diverse tapestry of musical genres, seeking to uncover the intricate qualities that strike a chord within our souls.
Beyond my personal experiences, my journalistic pursuits have led me to explore the stories and inspirations behind the melodies we hold dear. As a music journalist, I aim to delve into the heart of each composition, shedding light on the creative minds that have shaped the soundscape of our lives.
In my downtime, you can find me serenading my loyal canine companion with heartfelt tunes on the guitar or indulging in retail therapy to enhance my ever-growing wardrobe. Songwriting holds a special place in my heart, and I yearn for the day when I can share my creative talents with the world. Until then, my passion for uncovering the emotional power within music continues to drive my insightful reviews and analyses, as I journey through the rich landscape of melodies that move us.