Robbie Williams’s new album, the first under a lucrative new worldwide deal with EMI, finds the singer as charmingly crass as ever. The former teen idol babbles stream-of-consciously on the opening track “How Peculiar” (“So get the old fella and whack it up against her tush”) and waxes poetic on the gross luxuries of fame on “Monsoon” (“Don’t wanna piss on your parade/I’m here to make money and get laid”). It’s not until the song’s bridge that Williams gets to the real meat of things: “Oh Lord, I feel nothing/I know much smarter men/Never got this far.” In fact, most of Escapology finds Williams adding a more obvious coat of self-loathing to his cocky self-parody—“Handsome Man” is at once tongue-in-cheek but slowly moves into darkly existential territory (“If you drop me/I fall to pieces/If you don’t need me/I don’t exist,” he sings). The sonically plush first single, “Feel,” expands his existential crisis, while “Come Undone” explores Williams own dichotomies and places responsibility on the world (“I am scum and I’m your son”). Unfortunately, much of the album treads far too middle-of-the-road (“Love Somebody,” “Revolution”) and pales in comparison to Williams’s vibrant personality. The Latin-flavored “Me & My Monkey” exhibits the kind of rich, narrative storytelling Williams should be pursuing, rather than dull AC balladry he seems to be gravitating toward.
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