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on 11 March 2010
I've Been Expecting You is a delight. I cannot praise it enough. A masterpiece. Overflowing with sublime, catchy music, this 2nd effort by Robbie Williams far outshines his mismatched debut Life Thru a Lens. I've Been Expecting You is as interesting and involving as its sleeve might suggest, and then some.
The first three songs on the album are its most famous hits - "Strong, "No Regrets" and (my mother's favourite) "Millennium". Wonderful as all of these are, they only scrape the gist of the treasure that is I've Been Expecting You. "Phoenix from the Flames" is beautiful and soulful, and "Win Some Lose Some" has a great chorus.
However, for me it's with track 6, "Grace", that the album really begins to touch ether. Sublime, moving... a good taste of what's coming.
Track 7 is interesting - on earlier versions of the album, here you'd find "Jesus in a Camper Van". Following a lawsuit from an artist I can't name over Robbie supposedly unlawfully using the phrase "I am the way", the track was removed. In its place, we hit the single "It's Only Us". I couldn't be more delighted with the exchange. "Jesus in a Camper Van" was always my least favourite track off the album, one that simply did not channel the album's spirit. "It's Only Us" is short, energetic and feisty. Sometimes copyright issues can be for the better.
"Heaven from Here" and "Karma Killer" hurl you from one mood to the next, masterfully. From exquisite, peaceful contentness to full-on, soul-searching brutality."Karma Killer" is very refreshing, powerful and furious, even risking a little humour by closing with a chorus of barking dogs (and perhaps not the dogs you had in mind).
K. Wallinger's "She's the One" kicks in at this point, one you surely recognise. A wonderful song for sure. "Man Machine" exists solely for the fun of it, and with its surreal and sometimes nonsensical imagery, its playfulness shouldn't be lost to anyone.
Then... wow. "These Dreams" is absolutely indescribable. To call it beautiful, touching or moving is nowhere near adequate. It builds towards such a finish that most great albums would kill to end on such a high note.
If you have listened to Life Thru a Lens and Sing When You're Winning (the following album to I've Been Expecting You), you will have made it instinct to fast forward after the final song draws to a close. However, whereas Life Thru a Lens gave you a poem and Sing When You're Winning aggravatingly didn't give you anything, I've Been Expecting You rewards you with not one but TWO secret tracks; "Stand Your Ground" and "Stalker's Day Off" (whose title is perhaps accidentally given away in the booklet, under songwriting teams). "Stand Your Ground" is absolutely amazing in its simplicity and beauty. "Stalker's Day Off" doubles both as touching and tastelessly funny.
Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers really outdid themselves here. I've Been Expecting You also has a terrific sleeve taken at the famous house in Hollywood Hills. Featuring Robbie and an unknown woman, it has a theme that tells a story all on its own. You know, just to spoil you a little more.
I could call this album soul-energizing. I could call it magical. Music runs on a plane closer to me than my words can describe. No denying, though, that I've Been Expecting You is phenomenal. Thank you, Robbie and Guy, for making one of my most heartfelt favourite albums.