Robbie Williams - Escapology

When you start getting "Parents Advisory" stickers on Robbie Williams albums you have to wonder just exactly what there is on "Escapology" which is so shocking. Kids are growing up so quickly in the modern world that by the time they've left primary school they've got a full blown heroin addiction and they're already claiming benefits for their 3 kids Kylie, Britney and Beyonce so surely it can't be the odd reference to sex, drugs and rock & roll. After examing the lyric sheet with the sort of fevered passion of Bush looking through the Death Row Yearly Statistics I can only conclude that the Parents Advisory sticker is for the self indullgent navel glazing which makes the likes of Korn look tame - except in this case it's not Jonathon Davis' abuse as a child which makes him so angry, but Robbie disaffection at being an international superstar and all the ladies letting him down. I think to coin a phrase off Dave Stewart it is Paradise Syndrome were looking at here.

For those of you who have heard the recent single "Feel" don't let it cloud your judgement as it has got to be one of the worst representations of the album Robbie could have released. A substandard Moby-esque ambience prevails which we may account to the fact his longterm songwriting partner is middle aged and maybe he's trying to recapture his youth with one of those trendy dance-lite chillout anthems. On the albums opener "How Peculiar" he actually goes back his "Life Through A Lense" period and recalls a mixture of Kula Shaker, Oasis and Bon Jovi in equal measures with the latter undoubtably influenced by his hiatus in LA. It seems you can't escape your past and despite his love of the anthemic ballad, Williams will always have the post Britpop influence in his veins as he goes to display again on "Monsoon" which sound uncannilly like a Slade b-side.

"Something Beautiful" is one of the albums highlights and would sound like one of those classic Dr Dre piano riffs if it wasn't for the fact that Robbie hails from Stoke and makes it sound more Bugsy Malone than anything. If it wasn't for the attempted rapping in the verses "Handsome Man" would make a classic teen soap soundtrack for something like "Dawsons Creak" and potentially break him in the States, but ultimately it's too selfconscious and too English to ever cross over. "Me And My Monkey" has the welcome addition of mariacha trumpets which makes it the albums highlight and the potential that it is actually about Robbie and his insistant friend Jonathon Wilkes only adds to the mystery and appeal of the track.

Apart from the aforementioned tracks, "Escapology" is an album which offers very few surprises and while it may pull in varying extremes from the hard rock of "Cursed" to acoustic sentimentality of "Nan's Song" ultimately we've heard it all before. Taking into consideration that former Take Thatter Mark Owen has reportedly signed a record deal and the obvious fact that Owen's debut album "Green Man" was better than anything Williams has done to date, it must a be a concern for Robbie that he actually sells album on the strength of his current songs rather than the fact he's an international superstar schizoid. There's no doubting this album will sell by the bucketload, but when Robbie already has enough money to retire the only thing keeping him going is the desire to be taken seriously as an artist and without Guy Chambers on board for the next album it's hard to see where he will go next .

Alex McCann

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