Most helpful positive review
Not Bad for a Debut
on 16 March 2010
Britain's most noticeable pop boy Robbie Williams got on to a strong start with his debut, Life Thru a Lens. Fresh from his discovery with Take That, he immediately matured as a solo artist. Joining forces with producer and songwriter Guy Chambers would see a fruitful working relationship.
Where does that leave Life Thru a Lens? It can be considered a somewhat mismatched album, having as it does a general very good undertone with strong numbers, yet a couple of inferior offerings as well. For his first step onto the scene as a solo artist, though, this is good work. Life Thru a Lens is also, without a doubt, still Robbie's most renegade and experimental album. It is undeniably a soul-searching work. Robbie's lyrics deal a lot with his past life, either directly and honestly or slightly tongue-in-cheek. The sleeve of Life Thru a Lens, featuring Robbie emerging from what looks like a criminal trial (and presumably declared innocent) could perhaps be symbolism for that theme.
Already with the opener, the hopeful and catchy "Lazy Days", is the tone set. Robbie is of course a brilliant singer, and the music he crafts on this album along with Chambers also shows that he is no amateur songwriter. Something about the overall tone leaves something to be desired, but hey, Life Thru a Lens is a good album all considered.
"South of the Border" was an under-appreciated single that's quite strong and understated. Its lyrics I see as an allegory of Robbie dealing with his troubled past, his demons not-too-allegorically personified as the girl Cocaine Katie. "Killing Me" is beautiful and heartbreaking, whereas "One of God's Better People" (written for his mother) is fuel for that broken heart. "Angels" is then beautiful and moving, but I think, much like Radiohead's "Creep", that it's given too much significance in an artist's career of which it is but one gold nugget.
What drags Life Thru a Lens down is some gimmicky, substandard stuff. "Old Before I Die" is quite forgettable, and "Clean" (while with some clever and cheeky lyrics) falls into that same grave. The title track manages to avoid that swerve, being as it is terrifically catchy and as lyrically interesting as it is memorable. "Let Me Entertain You" ought to feel a little too gimmicky, but it works for what it stands for.
We mustn't forget "Ego a Go Go", perhaps the album's most maverick song. Both the music and lyrics are quite untameable, the sound palette almost deliberately cheeky at times (especially the screechy guitar), and the result is an explosive track that's unmatched in its playfulness. A wonderful song that mustn't be forgotten. I dare you to guess whom the lyrics are poking fun at.
While I've Been Expecting You is a far stronger album, Life Thru a Lens is not at all a bad effort. A decent start to what is to become a good career for one of Britain's most stand-out male pop singers. Keep an ear open as the album draws to a close, for the jabbing poem "Hello Sir".