As mature and cosy as the Marks & Sparks jumpers they model, The Circus is further consolidation of the Take That boys as an 'adult' band, unlikely to return to campy disco or cheast bearing antics any time soon. And it suits them well, particularly Barlow, whose proclivity for sensitively written, singer-songwriterly ballads always left him looking a little old before his time in the Robbie days.
Liberated to write grown up material for grown ups, he looks much more comfortable, and the combination of quirky, Beatlesy melodies, Coldplay sized stadium grandeur and heart on sleeve sentiment here works very well. It's not just the Gary Barlow show either. This is satisfyingly democratic album, with even Howard and Jason acquiting themselves well on lead vox for How Did It Come to This and What Is Love, and making you wonder why someone sees fit to turn them down so low in the mix the rest of the time.
It might be a little hyperbolic to call it the most convincing transition from teenyboppers to a grown up band since the Fab Four themselves. But it's certainly more emphatic than a band like Backstreet Boys, whose idea of growth appears to be to churn out increasingly bloodless versions of their old hits, while dressing like men in the midst of a mid-life crisis.