When one million excitable Take That fans snapped up tickets for the band's 2011 tour in a single day, it was unlikely they were signing up for futuristic synth-pop and the hitherto cuddly Mark Owen barking about bullets in the head. But that's Progress for you. The third generation of Take That - reunited with Robbie Williams - are looking forward rather than back. The Flood, the anthemic and relatively straightforward first single sung by Gary Barlow is something of a red herring here. Before long, the album of modern electronic pop you suspect Madonna producer Stuart Price teased out of them comes thrillingly to the fore. SOS is a frantic, metallic romp and Kidz and Underground Machine will certainly work in the packed arenas they play next year. Of course, Williams has almost destroyed his career making records that sound like this. It's just that now, thankfully, such electronic textures are married with Barlow's songwriting nous. In fact, Progress is so intriguing, the only complaint is that it doesn't quite have the courage of its convictions. Happy Now's verse is fantastic, for example, with its genuinely unsettling, dystopian mood. But then it's bludgeoned into submission by a singalong chorus from a completely different song. Still, this is a boy band we're talking about. And being Back for Good is, on this form, a cause for real celebration.
* Ben East
See My Friends
With an impressive if curious line-up of "friends", including Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Frank Black and Billy Corgan, the former Kinks frontman revisits and reinterprets his back catalogue on a series of duets - the results of which are, unfortunately, only mildly and momentarily successful. Jackson Browne's Waterloo Sunset and Mumford & Sons' Days/This Time Tomorrow are pleasant enough, as is Davies' more suitable pairing on Till the End of the Day with the former Big Star singer Alex Chilton, who died shortly after the recording sessions. Ultimately, though, this album serves only to remind us that duets and cover versions are tricky at the best of times - and together they are best avoided.