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ROBBIE WILLIAMS - RUDEBOX - EMI
Record Rating: ****

ROBBIE WILLIAMS - RUDEBOX Williams started his career with the boy band Take That, which ended with eight UK #1 singles to his credit. In a decade of going solo, hes bagged a 80 million record deal with EMI, released 7 #1 albums (which sold over 50 million albums worldwide), and even claimed the title of Britain's biggest-selling pop act. Hes a shrewd artist, and one who can tell when a change is in order. Intent on giving us something different from what hes recorded before, latest release Rudebox finds Williams veering away from his usual pop fare, choosing to channel instead the music he grew up listening to ~ George Michael, David Bowie and even Depeche Mode.

First single ~ the title track ~ is probably the worst song hes ever done, but still managed to find a comfortable home on both the pop charts and the dance floor. Heavily influenced by the 80s new wave synth sound, the rest of the 15 tracks are much darker and definitely more accomplished than 2005s vaudevillian Intensive Care.

Among the original material, covers of The Human League (Lousie), Manu Chao (Bongo Bong) and Lewis Taylor (Lovelight ~ which is the brilliant second single) reflect the karaoke sessions of Robbie's childhood in Stoke, and have been given the full tribute treatment with no funny business going on in the production to take away from their classic appeal. The Pet Shop Boys turn up as well on tracks She's Madonna (a tribute to the Queen of Pop) and We're The Pet Shop Boys, giving the album its kitschy retro appeal.

Still, Rudebox comes across as creatively bankrupt in comparison to his earlier work ~ he barely sounds like the bloke one fell in love with listening to No Regrets. This will take a few listens to get into and appreciate.

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