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Robbie Williams — Intensive Care

Ten years ago, a little-known boy band called 'Take That' split up for good, following the departure the year previous of their youngest member, Robert Peter Williams. Millions of girls burst into tears, some locked themselves in their rooms and the Samaritans opened up a special helpline for people suffering from 'Take That' deprivation. However, the girls were reassured with the hopes that Gary Barlow, the brains of the operation, would continue with a solo career. By the end of the following year, it turned out that underrated Robbie was actually to reign supreme in the pop charts for the close of the century and carry on into the new millenium.

Now, after four of his own albums, an album of swing covers and a greatest hits compilation, Robbie attempts to prove his worth as a celebrity, something he's been doing since the age of 17. This album will truly be a test of his mettle, as it's his first without fellow writer Guy Chambers. Sadly, and as much as it pains me to say this as an avid Robbie fan, he does not stand up to the test. There is nothing inherently bad about this album, but it's certainly not quite up there with pre-greatest hits albums Escapology and Life Thru A Lens and clearly a far cry from his best album, I've Been Expecting You.

The album, co-written with Stephen Duffy, is rather listenable, though it takes a few times through to find affection for it. Still present is Williams' blend of instrument genres that are amalgamated to make something quite unique to himself. There is a good mix of upbeat numbers, a dance track or two and the slower ballad numbers where Williams exhibits his oft-underrated vocals. Moreover, he has retained the sense of passion and caring in his voice that was lost in Sing When You're Winning but recovered on Escapology. This makes the album a pleasurable listen.

What causes the album to fail, though, is the quirkiness of the songs. They seem to lack convention, which is something I would argue is not a bad thing per se; experimentation is the trademark of all bands that succeed in longevity and find their niche market. Freddie Mercury and his band Queen, a large influence on Robbie, experimented with a disco sound after their greatest hits sound that was not well received — but they went on to make another 10 years of music. Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother is also seen as a rather dismal album by fans and the band alike, but it preceded record-breaker Dark Side of the Moon, their magnum opus. Hopefully Robbie will take the same direction as these two precedents, because his voice and stage prescence are certainly not rivalled by anyone around at the moment — he is Britain's best solo artist.

This is not an album for all, but it is certainly worth a listen if you are rather keen on Robbie. It really is not like anything he has released so far. There are better albums you could go and buy, but then again, there are much worse — it's not something you'd put on and intently listen to that often, but it makes nice music in the background. If you're looking to start on his best album though, as I don't believe in compilations, I would definitely have to recommend I've Been Expecting You. A good try and certainly some worthwhile music. Also, his annoying single 'Tripping' sounds a lot better when playing the album through — but there's not enough of his sharp-wit, quirky lyrics or word play.

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