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Album: Robbie Williams, Take the Crown (Island)


The last thing anyone wanted was a mature Robbie Williams. If you're of the view that he's an irritant on a par with Agent Orange, the idea of an immature Robbie Williams may be even worse, but at least he was good at that.

After the muted whimper of Reality Killed the Video Star (which "only" made No 2), Take the Crown – as the title suggests – is a naked attempt at returning with a bang, and bringing back the days when he was shifting the kind of quantities that earn you platinum discs.

As lead single "Candy", co-written by Gary Barlow, suggests, this one's shamelessly packed with big, bright, bold choruses. Tried-and-tested populism is the watchword: if he isn't trying to sound like the more successful version of himself, he's trying to sound like the big winners of the past. "Shit on the Radio" has the kind of pomp-rock keyboard licks heard on Starship or Van Halen albums circa 1984, "Into the Silence" recreates the sound of Joshua Tree-era U2, and so on.

If you loved Williams the way he was, rejoice. If you didn't, it may be time to switch off the radio and television for a few months, and bury your head in a bucket of calamine lotion.