Album: Robbie Williams

Intensive Care, EMI
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The Independent Culture

This is most glaringly apparent on "A Place to Crash", a slice of sub-Stones raunch-rock executed with little grasp of the economies of sound and style on which the form depends. Instead, he loads up the chorus with ugly Eighties American AOR-style background vocals, like some ghastly corporate chorale. The results are not pretty.

Co-written with Stephen "Tintin" Duffy over two years' seclusion in Los Angeles, the songs on Intensive Care mostly reflect the excessive narcissism that is Williams' "gift": there are songs about vampiric fans lusting after a dead rock star ("Advertising Space"); about a hedonist seeking indulgence for his indulgences ("Make Me Pure"); about feeling guilty as an older bloke on the pull ("Sin Sin Sin"); and a maudlin, introspective closer about loss of youthful potency ("King of Bloke and Bird") which finds the singer asserting, "They built museums/ I don't visit them/ I've made enough trouble of my own".

Williams seems unable to register things outside his increasingly solipsistic world. He assumes himself to be the central figure in all our lives, and has no interest in matters that don't reflect upon himself. Even the tragic loss of a loved one in "Please Don't Die" has Robbie worrying, "If you die before I leave/ What on earth becomes of me?"

It's hard to find a moment that isn't soured by galactic self-regard or the bogus, inauthentic manner of his music. One of the few tracks not directly concerning R Williams is the single "Tripping", a "mini gangster opera" (it says here) which, with lines like "You've been mixing with some very heavy faces/ The boys have all done bird", offers Guy Ritchie-level authenticity and depth, and also illustrates the full range of his vocal inadequacies.

As if all this isn't bad enough, Williams has gone and cultivated an interest in that old spiritualist trickster Aleister Crowley, an influence most apparent in the album's heaviest song "Random Acts", which extends further the lofty disdain of "Advertising Space". "It's justice, not respect I'm after," he blusters, "and that just means contempt for you all." Charmed to hear it, and more than happy to reciprocate.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'King of Bloke and Bird', 'Sin Sin Sin'