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Escapology is an oddly empty experience, another identikit Robbie Williams album.
Phil Udell, 28 Nov 2002
Whatever way you slice it, there’s no escaping the fact that Robbie Williams new album comes with the less than trivial price tag of £80 million. It finds the twin roles of Robbie Williams the musician and larger than life media personality coming closer than ever before, with the former in severe danger of becoming swamped by the latter.
The reason why ‘Angels’ struck such a chord was that it found Williams sharing an equal role with the song, allowing it to lead him rather than throttling the life out if it. There are no such moments here, just an awful lot of Robbie the cheeky scamp and troubled celebrity. As such the album will stand or fall depending on how you feel about him as a person.
It certainly won’t be for the music, which meanders firmly down the middle of the road, careful not to alienate middle America with it’s mix of rock, pop and a surprisingly soulful influence (‘Hot Fudge’ may as well be waving a Stars and Stripes, so eager is it to please).
Lyrically, the record is a jumble of self-deprecation (“I sung some songs that were lame, slept with girls on the game”), knowing bravado (“it’s hard to be humble when you’re so fucking big”) and a thinly disguised contempt for the hand that feeds him so handsomely. The Oasis aping ‘Handsome Man’ best exemplifies his confusion, moving from the assertion that “I’m going to milk it till I turn it into cheese” to the plaintive “please don’t drop me, I’ll fall to pieces on you, if you don’t see me, I don’t exist” in a few bars.
When he manages to focus those emotions, he isn’t half bad. ‘Feel’ is pleasantly light of spirit and his solo ‘Nan’s Song’ far better than might be expected. In the end though, Escapology is an oddly empty experience, another identikit Robbie Williams album.