Friday, October 27, 2006


Song: Lovelight
Artist: Robbie Williams
Album: Rudebox

Lately it seems that the joy of creating music has been somehow lost. With the decline in record sales, artists are being asked to create the perfect songs and perfect albums that sell, sell, sell. Art doesn’t really work that way and many a good artists or bands bend under this pressure and implode while facing the daunting task o following up a hugely successful album. I am reminded of Coldplay, whose last album, “X & Y” was built for commercial and artistic success. I read countless articles about how hard Chris Martin & Co. worked on creating the perfect album. And while I enjoyed parts of “X & Y,” in the end I found it to be a disappointment, trying to be too much for too many people and while a song like “Fix You” was built to be the next “Scientist” and pull all the right strings, it comes across as too constructed, too… perfect.

Given the massive success Robbie Williams has had in the beginning of his solo career, the pessimist would say he was heading for this as well. I fell in love with Robbie when he released his first State side offering, “The Ego Has Landed.” I really liked everything that he was doing, until his last two albums. Starting with “Escapeology,” the first album under his record breaking 80 Million Pound deal with EMI, it was built to be a huge success. It had to be. It might have been the pressure of 80 Million Pounds (Hello Dave Chapelle!), or the fact that this was the first album without the complete help of long time co-writer Guy Chambers, but “Escapeology” was very flat to me, jumping from style to style in a way I found very distracting, a complaint that had dogged his albums in the past yet one I found refreshing… because I thought they still worked, until now. Even worse was last year’s “Intensive Care” which again showed Robbie trying to be everything for everyone. Both of these releases are not without a couple good songs, and lead singles “Feel” and “Tripping” are some of my favorites of his.

And now, rather quickly after “Intensive Care” we have “Rudebox,” his sixth album of original material. It is by far the messiest, silliest, and most out-there thing this king of pop has done. And it’s his best record in years. Done on the quick, “Rudebox” has an anything goes feel to it. Robbie basks in some of his goofier tendencies, rapping on several tracks in a variety of accents, reasons unknown. It is going to be proof positive for a lot of people that he has lost his touch but I disagree, from the first couple listens I was immediately drawn to it as it seems for the first time in a long time, Robbie is actually having fun. A lot of the songs are hands down ridiculous, but the breezy air makes it all the more enjoyable. Thankfully, we don’t have an “Angels” re-tread that he seems to think he needs every album. Sure “Angels” has been by far his most popular song, but like Coldplay’s “Fix You,” songs like “Advertising Space,” “Better Man,” and “Something Beautiful” can’t overcome “Angels.” You can’t keep re-writing a popular song, you’ve got to do something different.

Different is all over “Rudebox” and I completely expect people to dislike a lot of it. But the rushed anything-goes vibe is refreshing to me, and I just simply enjoy these songs this time around. An 80’s loving electro-pop album that mines the past to make pop of the future. “Lovelight” is what George Michael has been doing on his last couple of releases, while “We Are The Pet Shop Boys” sounds like… well, the Pet Shop Boys (With backing vocals by PSB’s Neil Tennant.) “Bongo Bong And Je Ne T'aime Plus” manages to be more ridiculous than “Escapeology’s” “Me And My Monkey” and sure to be sighted as a low point in his career. Yet when he sings “I’m the king of the bongo baby” it makes me smile… this is Robbie having a blast and not taking himself (or that 80 Million Pounds) seriously. On “The Actor” he randomly names actors, “Streep, Close, Burt Reynolds, Joaquin , Joaquin, Joaquin, Joaquin.” It’s so silly… I love it.

This is not a record for everyone, but if you want to just buckle up and enjoy a very British electro-pop ride, “Rudebox” has your ticket.


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