He's tried his hand at indie-rock, big-band swing and brash pop music--so where does Robbie Williams' fifth album take the popular British entertainer? Escapology
is far removed from his previous albums: it's a serious attempt to make something as credible as it is accessible--so no more bubble-gum wonders such as "Rock DJ" or "Kids". Robbie has now matured and makes adult-orientated rock or middle-of-the road pop music. Lead single "Feel" is standard adult-pop fare that one might expect from the likes of Phil Collins or David Gray; it's redeemed, however, by Robbie's noticeably heartfelt vocals--though perhaps not the best singer in the world, you can tell he means every word he sings. The highlight of Escapology
is the gigantically epic ballad "Love Somebody" in which his voice is pushed to its very limits and is pitched over a lush backdrop of brooding strings and a rousing gospel choir.
Unquestionably the ballads reign supreme--the heavier rock numbers are large and impressively produced with a cheesy touch of soul, filled with brash horns and pub-rock arrangements in what feels like an attempt to follow Oasis but ends up being more like Toploader.
Robbie's lyrical content is still very personal and much of it harps on about what a hard time he has being a pop star ("How Peculiar" and "Something Beautiful"). To fit his new mature style, there is less self parody, although his sense of humour and wry observations do shine though on "Handsome Man" and the catchy but silly "Me & My Monkey". Last but not least, the first track written entirely by Robbie himself, "Nan's Song" is a simple and moving tribute to his late grandmother. Although by far not the best on the album, Robbie will probably take comfort in that, firstly, it's good enough to be on the album and, secondly, it's better than Liam Gallagher's first effort. --David Trueman
CD Chrysalis, 7243 5439942 8, 2002 14 Track