Thursday, August 26, 2010

Robbie and Gary's duet is a good thing

Burying the hatchet can't be easy, especially when you're in the public eye. So it's heartwarming to see Gary Williams and Robbie Barlow kiss and make up (almost literally, judging by the video) after all these years.

But amidst all the gooey-eyed nostalgia for The That, we have to remember that conflict fuels art. No Regrets, Robbie's two finger salute to his former band, is by far his best song. So the potential for the GazWaz duet, Shame, to be a mawkish chumfest is very, very high indeed.

The early signs are not good. We open with an acoustic guitar riff that is legally (but not audibly) distinct from The Beatles' Blackbird. It's followed by the world's most tired cliché: "There's three versions of this story - mine and yours, and then the truth". It puts the ewww in re-eww-nion.

But, like the singers' relationship, the song starts to mature. The Nashville harmonies and gently strummed guitars conjure up a real sense of nostalgia and regret.

Some of the lyrics - particularly Robbie's "I wrote a letter in my mind / but the words were so unkind / about a man I can't remember" - have the ring of bitter truth.

Other moments - like when Barlow sings about Williams' "poster 30ft high at the back of Toys R Us" - have the rind of a bitter 30-year-old cheese.

Nonetheless, it's a clever and brave single. By pouring all of that emotion into a song, they've not only cleared the air, but neatly sidestepped a thousand interviews about the missing years. The video even suggests that the Take That + Robbie Williams "comeback", which could have been a cynical business arrangement, is based on genuine affection.

On first listen, it sent shivers up my middle-aged spine. But then, I'm a big softy. What think you?

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