herald

Thursday 19 April 2018

Few bright spots in lamentable collection

Robbie Williams Swings Both Ways (Island)

Clappy chappy: Robbie Williams' new album
Clappy chappy: Robbie Williams' new album

DISCLAIMER: We suggest parental discretion. The following article concerns performances of a shocking nature, not suitable for music lovers. Under discussion is a fictional realm where technology masks a grotesque plague that threatens to infect humankind. Any resemblance between the main character and a swing band singer, living or dead, is entirely fictitious.

Take That hoofer and all-round clappy chappy Robbie Williams should be congratulated for avoiding the obvious last refuge of the tired pop-rock performer, an album of country songs.

Instead Robbie follows the example set by Rod Stewart, Westlife and indeed his younger self by attempting to repeat the seven million sales of his Swing When You're Winning album from 12 years ago.

Vintage

Then, Robbie wisely stuck to a repertoire of vintage standards. Songs everyone knew. Even if it was just from hearing a drunken uncle butcher Mack the Knife at a wedding.

It's unlikely that the same uncle will be tempted to wrap his muscular tonsils around the tracks on Robbie's tenth studio album. With a few exceptions, the Great American Songbook this ain't. Although, in fairness, Robbie can still pull a convincing vintage Rat Pack pose for the CD cover photograph.

Passable

There are some golden moments in this rain shower. Lily Allen drags a performance that's beyond stage school from Robbie on Dream A Little Dream. It will undoubtedly boost sales of a lamentable collection.

Similarly Rufus Wainwright sprinkles his top-of-the-range fairy dust over the title track, the only song I know that's equal parts Irving Berlin and Benny Hill.

But these passable pastiches pale when heard alongside the terminal plinky-plod of the duet with Olly Murs on I Wan'na Be Like You. Probably the worst version of The Monkey Song from The Jungle Book since Pinky and Perky. Robbie's descent into zombie hell continues on the Cab Calloway classic Minnie the Moocher which, having withstood many pressures over the decades, disintegrates under Williams' rampant foolishness.

If you're really cruel, you could give this to the person you don't like for Christmas.

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