Harmonious Heritage: A Melodic Exploration of Take That's 'This Life' - A Cozy Compilation of Enduring, Catchy, and Distinctly English Tunes

Navigating the mundane chores of daily life takes an unexpected turn when accompanied by the dulcet tones of Take That's ninth album, "This Life." There's no dramatic revelation or profound romantic escapade amidst the laundry routine, just a subtle elevation in mood. The band, with their quintessentially English grievances and consolations—ranging from rainy days and lost loves to muddled plans—provides a hummable, toe-tappable soundtrack. Gary Barlow's easy-hook, mustn't-grumble melodies serve as a jaunty shrug, like a reliable co-worker placing a comforting cuppa on your desk.

The single "This Life" encapsulates their perspective: acknowledging that tomorrow may not be golden, yet insisting that a new day holds the promise of endless possibilities. It's a reminder of the savvy decision to enlist Take That for Marks & Spencer's promotion in 2008; the once-thong-pelted boy band had gracefully evolved into a matured ensemble you'd trust to endorse sensible knickers and cozy sweaters.

While Take That has weathered storms and endured attrition, losing the charismatic Robbie Williams in 1995 and the comedic camaraderie of Jason Orange a decade later, the remaining trio proved their uplifting prowess earlier this year. At the king's coronation concert, Howard Donald and Mark Owen radiated fraternal warmth, complementing Barlow's solidly crafted songs. The trio serves as a reassuring choice, connecting us to a more hopeful era—a relic of the '90s camaraderie reminiscent of TV's Friends.

Despite the absence of Williams and Orange, Barlow's craftsmanship shines through. Witness the seamless execution in "Back for Good" (1995), where he turns the tune on the line "in the twist of separation." It's a demonstration of domestic craft, akin to watching a potter flick a spout into the rim of a jug—nothing flashy, just a practiced touch that makes the entire creation harmoniously work.

In "This Life," Barlow pours out a comforting array of songs, each as inviting as a mug of tea ready to cradle a digestive. The album opens on a poignant note with "Keep Your Head Up," where layers of vocals create a misty atmosphere against a backdrop of synths, and a piano motif echoes like raindrops on a window. The cautiously motivational message advises to keep the mind strong and the wings wide, urging to let go instead of holding on.

The pace picks up with the steering-wheel-tapping "Windows," a track reminiscent of the Jonas Brothers' latest work, dialing into the family-friendly soft rock of the Seventies with casual electric guitars and falsetto yearnings. "This Life" echoes with shades of Billy Joel and Joe Jackson, its descending piano chords stomping like a rhythmic heartbeat. Barlow's affable, oatmeal anthemic choruses shine on tracks like "March of the Hopeful" ("Don't change a thing about my heart!"), "Brand New Sun" ("Hey hey hey!"), and the banjo-accented "We Got All Day" ("Alright! Slow down! We got all day-ay-ay!").

In "Days I Hate Myself," there's a nod to Police-era Sting with a slightly spiky vocal and bass line, driven by an engagingly lonely keyboard line. "Mind Full of Madness" propels forward with a twitchy pulse reminiscent of the Rocky III theme song "Eye of the Tiger," accompanied by lyrics that poignantly reference Barlow's grief over his stillborn daughter, Poppy.

"The Champion" carries a Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" sway, feeling like a response to Robbie's "Strong" (1999). Unlike the deconstruction of celebrity mess in Robbie's track, Barlow and company take it a step further, suggesting that strength lies in embracing vulnerability. Amid slickly patterned bongos, they acknowledge that being "a little bit yesterday, a little bit broken" can still make a man "feel like a king." It's a reassuring sentiment.

As the festive season approaches, those anticipating interactions with family members holding differing world views may find solace in "One More Word." The track gracefully builds from the tenderness of close connection to the acknowledgment of disagreements, encapsulating the complexities of love with lines like "I had to hold your hand in the waiting room" evolving into "I drink your wine, I take your point of view, take mine?… 'Cause I love you."

In the Nineties, I'll admit to being irrationally snobbish about Take That; a sentiment shared by many indie kids who, ironically, sported nearly identical M&S charcoal grandad knitwear. However, much like those ubiquitous cardigans, the band has demonstrated a practical and enduring likeability. While I may not anticipate having my emotional landscape stirred or electrified by their music, I find solace in the security of their reliable wool-cotton mix—a metaphorical comfort that has evolved into what feels like a nationwide friendship over the years. Here's to the enduring legacy of the III.

As Take That releases their ninth album, "This Life," it's a poignant moment of reflection for someone who, in the Nineties, harbored a snobbish attitude towards the band. Admitting to the shared irony of indie kids donning identical M&S charcoal grandad knitwear, the realization dawns that, much like those cardigans, Take That embodies practical and enduring likeability. While the music may not shake or thrill the emotional world, there's a genuine appreciation for the reliable wool-cotton mix they offer—a metaphorical security blanket that has transformed into a sense of nationwide friendship over the years. In raising a toast to the III, the conclusion is a nod to the enduring legacy and the unexpected warmth found in the familiar chords of Take That's journey.