With the news that Escapology would be the last Robbie Williams album recorded with producer/songwriter phenom Guy Chambers, fans began to wonder whether one of Britain's most durable pop forces would execute a disappearing act from the charts with a single album.
Unfortunately, Escapology makes it sound as though Chambers has already left.
Backed by stale songs, formulaic arrangements, and mediocre songwriting, Williams is forced to rely on his volcanic personality to bring this album across -- and despite a few strong performances, he sinks into lame self-parody time and time again.
It's nearly impossible to reflect seriously on themes he's already broached several times before, as often happens here; "Feel" and "Love Somebody" are the usual looking-for-love songs, the latter with a set of trite lyrics cribbed from 30 years of rock & roll: "Always and forever, is forever young/Your shadow on the pavement, the dark side of the sun/Gotta dream the dream all over and sleep it tight/You don't wanna sing the blues in black and white." The Oasis flag-waver "Something Beautiful" finds Williams trying to keep on despite being tired with the modern world, while "Monsoon" and "Handsome Man" chart the usual celebrity regrets with an odd sense of arrogance and self-deprecation that isn't half as interesting at this point in his career as before.
The highlights here are songs that barely would've made it onto Sing When You're Winning (much less his first two albums), and the sound is MOR throughout.
Robbie Williams has never been an innovative artist, but previously his strong delivery and sly, ironic wit -- along with savvy production and songwriting -- kept any glimpse of cheese at bay.
Escapology shows he's unable to avoid the trap.