Monday, 5 November 2012

New Music Monday #30

Take The Crown (Album)
by Robbie Williams


I don’t know if Robbie Williams is one of those ‘love them or hate them’ pop stars. I do know that if you’ve watched more than five minutes of television or listened to more than five minutes of commercial radio in the last ten years you’re bound to know more than one Robbie Williams song. Maybe ‘Let Me Entertain You’ but probably, definitely ‘Angels’. I don’t know if ‘Angels’ sounded like the massive hit it was to become when I first heard it, but I do know I don’t hear an ‘Angels’ on Robbie’s latest album ‘Take The Crown’. That’s not to say this is a bad album. What I do hear is an album full of fan-friendly songs and an album of songs the TV and the radio and the pop charts will undoubtedly love.

I didn’t know what to expect from an album whose first single ‘Candy’ sounds like it was written for a teenage boy band, but that’s where Robbie is from, so he knows how to work it and work it well. Even as a 38 year old man he somehow successfully works songs like ‘Be A Boy’ and ‘Shit On The Radio’ effortlessly. ‘Hey Wow Yeah Yeah’ is an odd alt-rock-pop number thrown into the mix as a filler but he follows it with ‘Not Like The Others’ which is classic Robbie Williams, declaring “you and me are not like the others” enough times to get stuck in your head. This is an album that seems comfortable; it’s just him doing what he does well, playful and arrogant, while maintaining a sense of humble appreciation. Long-time fans are rewarded with songs like ‘Into The Silence’; an anthemic, stadium worthy pop song begging to be played live and the acoustic guitar driven duet with Lissie, ‘Losers’ ends the album on an unpretentious tone, it’s the type of song that will keep his fans coming back for more.

I don’t know if this is an album that will take Robbie Williams’ career in a new direction or to a new level of success. I don’t know if this is an album that will be thought of as one of his best in years to come. I don’t know how much I actually like this album, some songs are great middle of the road pop but as a collection I’m not completely convinced. I do know this. Love him or hate him, Robbie Williams knows his audience and knows his craft and this is an album that will keep that audience happy for a little while yet.

Jo Michelmore gives Take The Crown three Britney's out of five...


Take The Crown (Album)
by Robbie Williams

How can someone be so successful in the UK, Australia and virtually the entire world without every truly breaking the US market? That's the question that's plagued Robbie Williams for the majority of his solo career. The answer is found in his last couple of records, especially ninth studio release, Take The Crown. A step out of touch (and time) with the current pop trends dominating the charts, Take The Crown is a mess of ideas that bounces Robbie from his Swing When You're Winning persona to the much dreaded (shake your) Rudebox (why are you so nasty?) one; a little bit 80s, a little bit 90s, a little bit now and a little bit 'I'm trying too hard to remain relevant.' It's a sad state of affairs for a performer that (minus one market) dominated the pop landscape with fun, engaging LP's like Escapology and Sing When You're Winning. You could blame Gary Barlow, for his stench is ripe throughout this album, but that's too easy. I'll leave that to Take That revenge conspiracy theorists.

'Be A Boy' kicks off the 'festivities' in a suitably underwhelming fashion. If Gaga's 'Edge of Glory' and Kings of Leon's 'Use Somebody' had a baby and got remixed by Calvin Harris, it would sound a little something like 'Be A Boy.' Saxophone + "woah-Oh-oh-oh?" How inspired. This is actually one of the album highlights, so enjoy it for what it is. 'Candy' is one of those pop tracks that leaves you feeling a little embarrassed for whoever is performing it. Like a lot of Madonna's more recent efforts, you know? Penned by Barlow, it's a lyrical gem. "Ring a ring of roses, whoever gets the closest, she comes and she goes, as the war of the roses." What? Ke$ha's words now feel like Shakespeare to thou ears. Expect 'Candy' to reign at the top of the UK charts. It's just the right type of mundane to succeed in the UK and be completely overlooked in the US. For it is not sexy. At all. There's something about cutting himself on 'Different' but I've lost all interest. I can't even bring myself to mutter, "cheer up, emo kid." 

Forgettable number after forgettable number rolls out until the closing track, 'Losers' which randomly features Lissie. It's a wonderful song. Truly. The two duet quite nicely together alongside a simple guitar/string accompaniment. Ridiculously out of place alongside the ridiculously overproduced tracks that make up Take The Crown, you almost want to give Williams a good slap in the face for even bothering to give you a reminder that he's capable of better. At the end of the day, I think that's a pretty good place to leave this, uh, critique (?). Take The Crown makes you think about how great Robbie Williams once was and still could be, while driving home the fact that he just isn't cut out for the full scale global success he claimed to seek with this record. As a sorta-kinda-maybe Robbie fan, I feel let down. And yeah, I blame Gary Barlow.

Matt Bond gives Take The Crown one Dannii Minogue out of five...

Secret Days
by School of Seven Bells
Album: Put Your Sad Down EP

What a gorgeous little piece of electronic pop perfection from School Of Seven Bells, who are about to release an EP which has probably my favourite title of the year; ‘Put Your Sad Down’. This first song is delicious; with a driving beat, a cute melody and looping vocals, offering visions of a sometime or a somewhere I want to visit; the repeating lines “all of those secret days” are almost addictive, one listen is definitely not enough. Again! Again! 

Jo Michelmore gives 'Secret Days' four Shirley Manson's out of five...

by Crystal Castles
Album: III (2012)

While Crystal Castles new album has probably my least favourite title of the year ‘III’ (snore, boring!) the songs I’ve heard from it are anything but boring. This dreamy track is perfect, a dark beat with Alice’s vocal floating beautifully above, it’s sure to have you press ‘play’ more than once and have you swaying in a way only Crystal Castles can make you sway. It’s eerie and it’s comfortable, it’s appropriately called ‘Affection’ and it’s Crystal Castles, there’s nothing not to like.        

Jo Michelmore gives 'Affection' four Shirley Manson's out of five...


Love Is All I Got
by Feed Me and Crystal Fighters

No one puts in that much effort for a costume party. Especially not hipsters. They wouldn't wear masks! If a hispter's wearing a mask and someone takes a photo of them, does it have Instagram worth? No, wait... If a tree falls down in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? No, wait... good video but. 

Matt Bond gives the 'Love Is All I Got' video three Karen O's out of five...   

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