The Art Of Doing Nothing

Mark Owen

Not really nothing at all

I've been going through a Take That phase for some reason. Take That have achieved something no other band I can think of have: their reunion/comeback has been more of an artistic success than the original incarnation. Much of the original Take That material sounds callow, while the second time round the hit songs are pinnacles of pure pop: tracks like "Patience", "Shine", "Rule The World", "Greatest Day" and "The Flood".

The latter track comes from Progress, the big reconciliation album with Robbie Williams. Perhaps inevitably there was an accompanying documentary, and one thing struck me while watching it, which was this clip of Mark Owen recording a vocal - headphones on, so all we can hear is his voice and not the track. Until then I hadn't realised how noticeable his rhotacism is - he can't pronounce his "R"s. It doesn't stick out in the context of a track but, once you start listening for it, you can hear it - and I personally find it rather endearing.

Obviously Gary Barlow and Robbie have had their solo careers but less well known is that Mark Owen has also released four albums. They haven't been particularly successful - he's quoted as saying that he doesn't have Ferraris, he has his solo albums. I decided to have a listen (what a wonder Spotify is) and chose, for no particular reason that I can remember, this one, which is the most recent.

I wasn't expecting much, but have been pleasantly surprised. There are a good number of very listenable tracks. The first to grab me was the first track, "Giveaway", an unexpectedly moody and atmospheric start to an album, with a nicely echo-ey, electronic feel. "Stars", which was the lead single, has more of a beat and a great chorus. My current favourite is "Heaven's Falling", which builds nicely and even has a kind of rap section (which I quite like).

All are pretty electronic in feel, mostly based around initial synth chord sequences (which, if videos of the tour are to be believed, Mark played himself), and all build in a similar, but effective, way. He's clearly learned a thing or two over the twenty years of working with the best writers and producers, and I guess he can call on a few people too. Some tracks are a little derivative ("Raven" is a dead ringer for Coldplay) but overall, great pop.

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