Album: Robbie Williams, Take The Crown (Universal Island)

A well-crafted ode in honour of self-obsession

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The Independent Culture

Robbie Williams has stated that he wanted this comeback album following his reunion with Take That to be stuffed with hits – and while Take The Crown undoubtedly contains many individual tracks sure to tickle the mainstream pop palate, that doesn't in itself make for a great album.

It's certainly been crafted with great skill, Williams and producer Jacknife Lee turning their hands to a range of styles: the epic synth pads and reverberating guitar parts of "Hunting For You" and "Into The Silence" inescapably bring to mind U2, the dumb, simplistic machine-gun chant of "Hey Wow Yeah Yeah" recalls Plastic Bertrand's "Ca Plane Pour Moi", and there are distinct echoes of The Bee Gees – as songwriters, at least – in the way that the power-ballad "Different" develops. The latter is one of several tracks in which Williams rakes over the embers of a failed relationship – "Gospel" is another, and "Losers" – although the fact that they usually revert to being all about Robbie's favourite subject (himself) perhaps reveals more about the failure than the songs' analyses manage.

His bumptiousness is no more appealing than before either, whether he's playing the "naughty boy with a dirty habit" in "Not Like The Others", or just being bullishly over-confident in "Be A Boy". Williams' appeal has always pivoted precariously on his self-regard, but he clearly just can't help himself. "Everything I like's illegal, seductive, addictive, immoral, corrosive, destructive," he boasts rather than admits in "Hunting For You", "but I've got kind words in my heart". Though they're not greatly in evidence here in songs such as "Candy", the bouncy, nursery-rhyme-style single co-written with Gary Barlow, about a girl who's too full of herself, or "Into The Silence", where he exults in a former lover's loneliness: "When karma reaches you I want to be there, in case it needs help". Although mention of karma surely should have warned him against recording a song decrying the "Shit On The Radio"? Because if he has his way, the only stuff they'll be playing for the next six months will be his.

Download: Candy; Different; Not Like The Others