Review Summary: Where ambition and familiarity collide
Robbie Williams, mainstay on the UK music scene since he was first introduced to the world as 1/5 of the successful boyband Take That. That’s over 20 years. That’s a long time. Despite the success he found with his band, Williams flourished best as a solo artist, crafting notably catchy pop songs with an occasionally edgy vibe that no one has really done before or since. He’s had a go at standard pop, pop rock, ballads, big band swing, dance and even R&B, and every effort has been a commercial success- if a little uneven critically. There is an undeniable fact though; Robbie Williams has serious talent. Talent for songwriting, composition and showmanship; a triple threat in every sense. Even though sometimes he has struggled with how to package his abilities and has released some rather spectacular duds, he has perhaps become unfairly known for his partying antics in days of yore, and the hideously overplayed/ overrated wedding dance, ‘Angels’. Although he is a truly magnetic personality, his music deserves the attention over him- and on Escapology
, which is undoubtedly his strongest pop-orientated effort, his abilities find a home on a consistent and entertaining release where he is at his most playful, humorous, and risqué. Following this album up was to be no easy feat, but sure enough, three years later, Intensive Care
reared its head. It was decidedly more serious than Escapology
and signalled the start of a slightly more world-weary Robbie, yet it managed to retain the famous attitude and strong songwriting, even if it feels a touch too sombre in places.
The good news is, the truly pop-centric efforts of Intensive Care
are as fun as they ought to be: single track ‘Tripping’ is a joy. A little weak lyrically, but truly indicative of the cheeky-chappie image, with a repetitive (yet never monotonous) rhythm and catchy chorus. However, fun as they are- a number of songs, such as ‘Your Gay Friend’ and ‘Sin Sin Sin’ are a little too typical for Mr. Williams. ‘Your Gay Friend’s attempt at humour falls a little flat, even if the likable guitar work can sustain it admirably. Similarly, the attempted grandiosity of ‘Sin Sin Sin’, despite the well-written hook, is just a touch too overblown to render it as a standout. However, the decidedly more minimal ‘Make Me Pure’ is a simplistic arrangement of poetry set to guitar, and it works superbly. The lyricism has depth, and there is an earnestness, particularly in the relation of the track’s title, that layers the track with a sincerity the rest of the album could use copious amounts of. At the opposite end of the scale is the album’s worst track, ‘Random Acts Of Kindness’. Truly the antithesis of ‘Make Me Pure’, it is an overproduced pop rock track that could use a severe revision both in lyrics and instrumentation. The vocal delivery is rather listless, and at just over four minutes, it’s also much too long.
Second album single ‘Advertising Space’ is another story altogether. Emotional, solemn, and lyrically superb, it is a slow track with real heart, capitalising hugely on William’s range and striking a balance between the rock and pop vibes without ever really settling on one side of the fence. ‘Spread Your Wings’ and ‘Please Don’t Die’ manage to do a similar thing, albeit to a lesser extent. The latter is a touching composition with a simple yet gracefully penned melody, and it once again recycles the earnestness of ‘Make Me Pure’ to make the former party machine seem vulnerable and human. Unfortunately, the track is also a little too long, at just shy of five minutes, which makes it loose some of its impact, but nonetheless, it is still an accomplished song. ‘Spread Your Wings’, though, echoes Escapology
’s ‘Me And My Monkey’, as a story set to music. It is enjoyable and rather silly in the best possible way, but pales in comparison to its’ Escapology
counterpart. But then again, it was always going to be difficult to top a Fear and Loathing-style adventure featuring Mr. Williams and a monkey.
is the start of a particularly slippery downward slope for Williams. The misguided electronica of Rudebox
, the underwritten Reality Killed The Video Star
, the much too-cheesy Take The Crown
. But, although it’s the start of a long lapse, he still hadn’t completely faltered by this point yet, and although it’s highly unlikely that any more than a couple of songs would find their way onto any future ‘best of’ collections by the singer, this is still an enjoyable album in its own right. Underdeveloped and seemingly a little rushed in places, the release still has bags of the trademark attitude, and if William’s most recent output is anything to judge by, the new album could put him back on the right track once again. Here’s hoping.