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King of The Bland offers more of the same
on 29 June 2007
Like a performing pop monkey, Robbie always manages to keep going, some kind of gurning, self-depreciating, self-loathing hero who just can't help making pop music, despite himself.
All hail king of the bland. I don't get Robbie Williams success musically at all. I've listened to the albums. I'm willing to admit that there's a reasonable pop talent there - better and more articulate and more interesting than a million forcefed diva puppets. But greatness? No. Robbie will never be great.
Robbie will always be, at best, a famous person who makes records. Not someone who makes records who happens to be famous. And this is the immense gulf between the two.
Robbie sells not because he is good, but because he's Robbie Williams. He's that geezer what sung "Angels", and we all love him. Geez. How hard is it exactly, to be incredibly rich, and be able to have anyone you want, and not be able to walk down the street?
"The ultimate sanction of those in the public eye is withdrawl" - Paul Morley.
And yet, Robbie can't disconnect. He. Cannot. He needs the touch of the crowd like a junkie needs a fix. He can't let go. And so, with his carefully packaged team and image, the ever daring Robbie dabbles with some kind of pop reggae and stadium platitudes that rarely step outside of the bland musical box he's put himself into and wound himself up inside.
The opening "Ghosts", like any Robbie song manages some kind of vaguely clever wordplay, mixed with charmless arrogance and a featureless backing track. Whilst not the McDonalds of pop, Robbie comes close in formulaic massproduced loathing. Robbie - for people who think Blue are just a little bit boring.
I know he's a star, and yet, I find it difficult to tell the songs apart, or even care. The only time I can really tell songs finish is when there's some silence. "Tripping" manages to spotweld an almost memorable chorus with some lyrics about people who've done `Bird', and the kind of music that UB40 would buy off Max Thingummy so they could crack the charts once again.
"Make Me Pure", "Spread Your Wings", "Please Don't Die", "Random Acts Of Kindness"- these are the type of titles that wouldn't be out of place on a Bette Midler album. Musically they're about the same : pop music for people whose passion for art is akin to their interest in what type of food they eat. They don't care. I'll buy some music. Robbie'll do.
In fact, it's two songs that were originally destined for Robbie's longmooted PureFrancis alter-ego that are by far the best things here : "Your Gay Friend" and "Sin Sin Sin" are easily the most interesting things on the album by an enormous margin. In the same way that 2004's "Radio" was an intruiging left turn, these two semi-disco epics are enormous, brilliant, and bizarre. Sadly, it's over too soon in favour of old fashioned stadium rock that would shame even Bon Jovi.
In the end `Intensive Care' is homogenous sludge with a singer that hints at a potential for being interesting that his recorded career has only seen glimpses of. If Robbie cut loose of his traditional writing team and investigated the musical leftfield, he could achieve the greatness he obviously aspires to.