ADRIAN TRUPLIN: Take That star Mark Owen steps out of the shed and into the limelight


MARK OWEN: Dreamland (BMG)

Verdict: Arena-ready Anthems

Rating: ***

5 SECONDS OF SUMMER: 5SOS5 (BMG)

Verdict: Pleasant but formulaic

Rating: ***

BETH ORTON: Weather Alive (Partisan)

Verdict: Misty and atmospheric

Rating: ****

With Take That on hiatus, the members have been busy with solo projects. Gary Barlow is on tour with his excellent one-man show, which ends in the West End on Sunday.

Robbie Williams, whose second stint with the band ended in 2011, kicks off a greatest hits tour next month and Howard Donald was spotted performing his songs on ITV’s The Masked Dancer.

With no more collective activity until next year — when a new album is due — Mark Owen is also reviving a solo career that seemed to have died down since 2013’s low-key The Art Of Doing Nothing , an embarrassingly titled album made in his garden shed studio . The good news is that his latest release, Land Of Dreams, is much more enterprising.

Owen, 50, is handling the transition from boy band to middle-aged singer-songwriter well. He played the Isle Of Wight and Latitude festivals this summer, and today’s arrival of Land Of Dreams, plus an upcoming tour, suggests a serious return rather than a vanity project.

Mark Owen (pictured) performs at Latitude Festival 2022 at Henham Park on July 24, 2022.

Mark Owen (pictured) performs at Latitude Festival 2022 at Henham Park on July 24, 2022.

After moving to Los Angeles, the Oldham-born singer added an American flair to his music by hiring American producers and musicians. The result is a sun-kissed pop record that modernizes his sound while allowing him room to express himself.

He acknowledges his boy band roots. “You only want me for my good looks, bad taste. . . supersonic hip shake,” he quips in You Only Want Me, poking fun at his stage persona.

Boy is a big, harmony-driven sing-along that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Take That album. Mark provided lead vocals on the Take That hits Babe and Shine, and his new songs echo the clarity and enthusiasm of his singing. It’s not the most original record we’ll hear this fall, but Owen deserves full marks for range and versatility.

He channels Bee Gee Barry Gibb in an unexpectedly funky falsetto take on Are You Looking For Billy? and Superpower looks at George Michael’s Faith — a reminder that Michael is still the ultimate role model for teen idols who want to look grown up after the screaming stops.

Song of the Week: Beguiled by The Smashing Pumpkins

Never knowingly understated, the Chicago rockers return with the first of 33 songs from their upcoming rock opera Atum. Fueled by crunching Black Sabbath-like guitars, Beguiled also features the melodic twists that are bandleader Billy Corgan’s trump card.

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, in concert in Chicago on Tuesday

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, in concert in Chicago on Tuesday

There are deviations towards electronic dance and pop music, while Gone, Gone, Gone begins as an acoustic folk piece and develops into a strumming guitar track.

There’s a clumsy attempt to deal with the household budget crisis in Rio, in which he sings about “trying to survive when the cost of living is getting higher and higher”. I’m not sure his solution—an impromptu trip to Brazil—is an option for most of us.

But Land Of Dreams, with its arena-ready choruses, justifies his decision to go it alone again.

Robbie and Gary might just be looking nervously over their shoulders.

Australian quartet 5 Seconds Of Summer is another boy band experiencing growing pains. After forming in school and posting Justin Bieber covers on YouTube, they broke through when they toured with One Direction in 2013. Edgy enough to attract unruly teenage girls, they were tough enough not to scare their parents.

As a jaunty pop-punk band, they topped the US charts with their first three albums. But you can only go so far with songs that sound like The Inbetweeners’ music, and a more thoughtful approach appears on their fifth album, 5SOS5, a sprawling 19-song affair produced mostly by their guitarist, Michael Clifford.

Having once turned to bands like Blink-182 and Green Day, they’ve toned down the high-octane riffs in favor of twinkling keyboards and strumming acoustics—an oddly timely move, given the popularity of punk newcomers like Olivia Rodrigo.

Power ballad Complete Mess uses subtle electronics, while Older – a piano duet between singer Luke Hemmings and his fiancee Sierra Deaton – is brooding and tender.

There’s a nod to their hometown in Easy For You To Say (“the Sydney sunrise that burns for days”) and some cute, if formulaic, songs about love and regret. But amid introspection they have lost a little of their old dynamism.

Beth Orton was dubbed the queen of “folktronica” when her collaborations with The Chemical Brothers, Andy Weatherall and William Orbit struck a balance between electronic beats and acoustic guitars. Her first two solo albums, Trailer Park and Central Reservation, were worldwide hits and she was crowned Best Female Artist at the 2000 Brits.

Although she reached the Top 10 with 2002’s Daybreaker, her career has since stalled. Unable to work indoors, she needed a bank loan to continue making music and faced health problems dating back to a teenage diagnosis of the digestive disease Crohn’s disease.

Beth Orton was dubbed the queen of “folktronica” when her collaborations with The Chemical Brothers, Andy Weatherall and William Orbit struck a balance between electronic beats and acoustic guitars

But she wears her heart on her sleeve on her bittersweet Weather Alive album, a series of long, slow pieces written on a “beaten up old piano” she bought at London’s Camden Market. “It almost makes me cry, the weather is so beautiful outside,” she sings in a broken voice on the title track, setting a dreamlike tone that is sustained throughout.

With drummer Tom Skinner and saxophonist Alabaster DePlume adding light and shade, her hazy arrangements harken back to Joni Mitchell’s jazzier side. Those looking for bangers should look elsewhere, but Weather Alive is beautifully sung and played.

  • All albums are out today. Mark Owen starts a UK tour on 16 October at the O2 Academy, Bristol (ticketmaster.co.uk). Beth Orton kicks off her tour on October 7 at Academy 2, Birmingham (seetickets.com).



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