Okay, it's review time for Robbie Williams' latest effort, Intensive Care. I covered below how I became interested in the artist, so read that if you want some more background.
Overall Impression: Intensive Care is a solid effort, 3.5 stars out of four.
The good: Again, Robbie's ability to release only good songs continues unabated. There are no tracks to skip on this release (nor have there been on any previous ones). His switch from Guy Chambers to Stephen Duffy as his producer/writing partner hasn't diminished his quality one bit. I'm consistently amazed by this.
The bad: While they're trying to market Tripping as the catchy single from this album, there really is no Feel or Angels in Intensive Care. All the songs are good, most are great, but there's no anthem here that rises above the rest. On the bright side, that means that the wife won't be subjected to the same song over and over every time she's in the car.
Song by Song:
Ghosts: Any song that stars with "Here I stand, victorious. The only man who made you come." has to have some redeeming value, and this is no exception. Robbie always likes to start strong (the first track on Sing When Your Winning is, appropriately, Strong), and this is probably the strongest Brit-Pop track on the album. It's got a great beat, with a little discord thrown in (surely Duffy's work) and a lovely, resounding refrain, "We are ghosts!"
Tripping: I'm not sure what to make of this song. It's good, to be sure, but the melding of a reggae beat and falsetto doesn't really work as well as it was probably intended to. Some may even find it grating. Still, give the guy a little credit for moving out of his comfort zone.
Make Me Pure: Here's what happens when Ballad Robbie meets Ironic Robbie. A still roguish gent prays for redemption, but not until he's ready to behave. Great stuff. Awesome song.
Spread Your Wings: Back to rock-and-roll for Sir Williams, and he doesn't disappoint. More unrequited love with a toe-tappin' beat.
Advertising Space: Not exactly a title you'd expect to climb the UK charts, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this one released as the album's second single.
Please Don't Die: Another fabulous tune. Far better use of falsetto. Great bridge.
Your Gay Friend: Have to turn this one down a bit when playing at work, but still worth the listen. The lyrics are a bit strange, but certainly nothing to complain about.
Sin Sin Sin: I love the refrain of this song. Solid effort. A bit sacreligious, but I like that sort of thing.
Random Acts of Kindness: This tune almost sounds like a Smiths song...or at least Morrissey. Nice to see the Robster hopping out of the box a bit. There are worse groups to be compared to.
The Trouble With Me: Here's my dilemma. I love it when artists throw string sections into songs, and there's a lovely one in this tune. There's even a neat little poppy thing about 3 minutes into the tune. In the end, though, the song's just not all that engrossing. He even sounds like he's phoning it in.
A Place to Crash: Where'd this one come from?! It opens strong and enveloping like a Beatle tune, then moves into pure Robbie pop with some stellar harmony. Then repeats. Top notch!
King of Bloke and Bird: Just like SNL, Robbie saved the experimental, offbeat track for the end, and since it doesn't really work, I'm glad it's there rather than breaking up the rhythm of the album earlier. It also ends with a minute of silence, which I HATE, unless there's some hidden track at the end (a common occurrence on his earlier albums).
From the Singles
Meet of Stars (Tripping EP Enhanced CD): No one loads their EPs like Robbie. There's always some sort of previously unreleased track that's worth the £2 or £3. Here we have Robbie Williams in the style of David Bowie. Not his best work, really, but listenable.
Bag Full of Silly (Tripping DVD-EP): Oh, my, what do we have here? This little gem may be the best song of the lot! In fact, damn the consequences, it IS the best song! How'd this not make it onto the album!?! Thank goodness I've got a DVD audio ripper to put this baby onto CD. This is pure Brit-Pop Robbie, some of his best work. The second refrain, just a taste for you:
Last night this girl in my bed, I was telling her what I said
When all I had was potential, and a headful of dreadful
With a bag full of silly, walking through Piccadilly,
and I, well, anyway, anyway...
We're all made out of places, and I've been to a few.
What I need now is an aerial view.
'Cause I can see for myself that I can see for myself,
but, oh, I, anyway, anyway...
I haven't watched the either the DVD-EP, the movie on the Tripping Enhanced EP, or the bonus DVD on the Intensive Care Limited Edition yet, but I will soon, and you'll surely hear about it.