Friday, 7 May 2010

2004 Robbie Williams: Radio

I can't say I've ever been Robbie Williams' biggest fan over the years, but I've always thought that as a package, he's usually good value in the pop star and pop single stakes. Usually, but not always. Like here; 'Radio' is built around an approximation of the tinny early eighties synthpop whoosh of the Human League or Depeche Mode (before Vince Clark left), with Williams himself doing a passable Phil Oakey/Gary Numan impersonation to complete the pastiche. And if 'Radio' WAS presented as part of the decade's long running eighties revivalist dalliance then that might have provided a coherent context, but that's not all 'Radio' is 'about'. It's not long the 'real' Robbie can't resist breaking through with the usual cheeky grin and the "Listen to the radio and you will hear the songs you know" chorus that tries its damndest to provide a continuity with his own back catalogue by getting a 'Rock DJ' arm swinging jog going.

That it doesn't succeed is down to a flat desperation that has the low rent charm of a troupe of minor league cheerleaders doing star jumps in the drizzle - you know there's better out there in the higher leagues. And that's part of the problem - love him or loathe him, Williams is usually good value when it comes to a pop single, and the knowledge he's done so much better before only adds to the confusion/disappointment; just what's this all meant to be about? Maybe Williams was missing the steadying hand of long time writing collaborator Guy Chamber, because 'Radio' is an aimless meander of a song with no power or purpose that relies on a vague sense of nostalgia and the goodwill attached to Williams rather than anything it has to say for itself. Which is not much as far as I can see, save to provide the 'new song' bait for his (then) imminent 'Greatest Hits' album - such cynicism rarely produces much in the way of value.

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