Thursday, 5 November 2009
Robbie Williams, Reality Killed The Video Star (2009)
I've listened to this album a fair few times now, I've been trying to pin-down the effect it has on me: the 1970s melody and guitar stylings; the sticky-slushy orchestrations, a splash of film-soundtrack, a splotch of George Martin's Pepperland; the technical facility, especially on the production, coupled with a larger sense of emptiness. Williams' ego-lyrics (now with added UFO/Jesus references!) make something out of the vacuity, of course: that's the 'point' of him as a popstar, and probably also the ground of his sex-appeal, the hunk with a chunk missing in the middle of his heart. We're probably now at the point where we'd be disappointed if Williams didn't re-rehearse his It's Empty At The Top schtick. But then, listening to the two-part opener/closer 'Morning Sun' it struck me: Wings. That's what's gong on here. Wings is all through this album like the message in a stick of rock. Listen to 'Won't Do That', to 'Somewhere', to 'Starstruck', to 'Superblind', and you could be in the front row of a Williams McCartney-tribute concert. Even the slightly more modern songs ('Bodies', say) sound like Wings songs handed to 21st-century producers. So: what is Reality Killed? It's a more-melancholy-than-usual Wings album.
As to whether channelling Wings is a good thing (whether, in other words, it can ever escape the spectre of Alan Partridge enjoying himself): that's a whole other question.
I sometimes like to imagine McCartney, in the 1970s, looking around him thinking 'the Beatles were cool; I'm doing exactly what I used to do when I was in the Beatles -- so why aren't I cool any more?' It's a puzzler, it really is.