6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Change of direction, to say the least...,
This review is from: Rudebox (Audio CD)
Robbie Williams, it would seem, is not a patient man.
Only a year from the Intensive Care album, and halfway through a world tour, Robbie has not only turned up with a new album, with 17 tracks no less, but has also jettisoned his more typical fare for something very different. There are no 'xxxx track is the new Angels for this album' comments this time around.
But on reflection, this is not so much of a surprise. Robbie has never been one for brooding for five years over one album (George Michael we're looking at you...), and he quite publicly said he was bored of being a pop star as early as the Sing When You're Winning album. The result then was a diversion into swing & jazz standards - everyone loved that, so no-one got on his back; this time the results are more mixed, and everyone is up in arms.
But what sort of singer would you like him to be? The Mick Jagger / Rod Stewart type, that he'll still be singing Angels in 30 years time to middle-aged fans, without an decent record in decades? Surely the more interesting acts are those with a penchant for constant reinvention - Bowie, Madonna, Prince??
And those three names are chosen deliberately as all have an influence here. There is a track about Life on Mars; Madonna gets her own song; and somewhere out on the net there must be a mix of Rudebox alongside Prince's Housequake - Prince fans, tell me the chorus lines aren't the same.
So whilst this goes some way to justifying Robbie's new styles, it doesn't answer the fundamental question - is it any good?
Well yes and no.
Robbie's efforts to be a man-of-the-people rapper frankly don't work. He tries to throw in laughs in his nudge & a wink way, but comedy records have a short shelf-life and lose interest quickly; his scathing comments on Gary Barlow in 'The 90s' may pique interest the first listen, but it doesn't make a good song. And 'Dickhead'...oh dear. To get away with this type of record you need good lyrics - think the Streets, The Arctic Monkeys, Hard-Fi - acts who capture the mood of the people. Even if you've only heard Rudebox on this album you'll know that the words miss the mark more than they hit.
Where Robbie scores higher is when he lets his 80s influences run free. He had kept this under wraps before, apart from hints with 'Radio' on the Greatest Hits, but now he has the success to indulge himself, showing his roots by covering the Human League, Stephen Tin Tin Duffy, and duetting with the PSB. His version of Lovelight may or may not be as good as the the apparently ignored original, but it works; and even Rudebox gets in your head and refuses to leave after a few listens.
I have no idea where he'll go next after this, and probably neither does he. But then that might just be a good thing - and will help some teenager sitting at home with an eye on a career in music, to think 'when I'm world famous, I want Robbie to play on my album.'