Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 08:48 UK

Return to form for Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams
The album features a song co-written with Williams's ex-producer Guy Chambers

By Liam Allen
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Robbie Williams says his new album Reality Killed The Video Star marks a "turning point" in his career.

Out on 9 November, it is his first record since 2006's poorly received electro experiment Rudebox - which nonetheless reached number one around the world.

The new record is an eclectic collection of songs which wears its influences on its sleeve.

Here is a track-by-track guide to the Trevor Horn-produced album.

1. MORNING SUN

The simple piano chords and lush strings that herald the return of Robbie immediately begin the job of wooing back the audience alienated by Rudebox.

Morning Sun starts out as an update of an Elton John ballad before late-period Beatles cellos propel the song forward, and it quickly becomes a full-on Sgt Pepper-style rock out - musically and lyrically - complete with full orchestra and choir. The lyrics were rewritten to pay tribute to Michael Jackson following his death.

A strong opening statement of intent.

Key lyric: "The morning brings the mystery, the evening makes it history, tell me how do you rate the morning sun?"

2. BODIES

The album's first single, Bodies, has been described by the singer's PR machine as an "apocalyptic conspiracy-laden" song. The epic Trevor Horn production certainly backs that statement up, and brings the familiar Williams sound firmly into 2009.

A false chorus of "bodies in the Bodhi Tree, bodies making chemistry" is replaced by the real thing - "all we've ever wanted, is to look good naked" - which slams in from nowhere.

The Gregorian chant-style elements narrowly manage to avoid sounding like muzak purveyors Enigma, while Horn brings back 1980s orchestral stabs to glorious effect.

Key lyric: "And if Jesus really died for me, then Jesus really tried for me."

3. YOU KNOW ME
Robbie Williams
2006's Rudebox was Williams's lowest-selling album

If the older members of his across-the-board fanbase were tempted back by Morning Sun, this nod to 1950s doo-wop will have them boogie-ing alongside their grandchildren at one of the inevitable Williams tour dates.

The out-and-out retro kitsch of this nostalgic tale of lost love - complete with Stand By Me-style strings - is unlike anything he has recorded before. This song couldn't be further removed from the rapping and electro experimentation of Rudebox.

Key lyric: "Since you went away, my heart breaks every day, you don't know 'cos you're not there."

4. BLASPHEMY

Warm strings and piano again set the tone for this song, the melody and instrumentation of which could have come straight from a West End musical.

Lyrically, Williams tries very hard and, by and large, pulls it off: "What's so great about the Great Depression. Was it a blast for you because it's blasphemy."

Blasphemy sounds like a natural sibling to I Will Talk And Hollywood Will Listen - an underrated gem written by Williams and former writing partner Guy Chambers for 2001's Swing When You're Winning.

No coincidence, then, that Blasphemy was also co-written by Chambers.

Key lyric: "Our deaf and dumb dinners, there's gravy in the mud."

5. DO YOU MIND?

Robbie does Mick Jagger.

Throwaway filler.

Key lyric: "Do, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh you mind? If I, I-I, I, I, I-I, I touch you."

6. LAST DAYS OF DISCO

Last Days of Disco, with its Eurythmics synths and 808 snare drum, would have sat more comfortably on Rudebox than Reality Killed The Video Star and thus fails to move "Brand Williams" forward.

Self-confessed Pet Shop Boys fanatic Williams is clearly pleased as punch at working with their one-time collaborator Horn. As the track progresses, the veteran producer sprinkles his magic dust on it. He just about succeeds in making it sound like a passable Pet Shop Boys B-side.

Key lyric: "Don't call it a comeback, look what I invented here, I thought it was easy, they took it away from us, the last days of disco."

7. SOMEWHERE

A one minute orchestral aside which, again, would work well as a musical theatre recitative.

Key lyric: "You take your chance in life, go out and find a wife, don't get stuck in the state I'm in."

8. DECEPTACON

The opening filtered piano chords of Deceptacon break out into shimmering space-age harmonies and get the album right back on track.

Lyrically, there are again shades of the Beatles' imagery, while a Bowie Space Oddity influence can also be heard: "From all of us there to all of you, to all over here, we wish you all of the best, all of the year, she said 'well he's never been quite right'."

A real grower.

Key lyric: "And all over Britain, we wait for permission to form another queue."

9. STARSTRUCK

Since recording this track, Williams has admitted to being a huge fan of Big Brother, but that doesn't stop him taking a pop at "today's fame epidemic" through the medium of catchy mid-paced pop, underpinned by a gently throbbing bassline.

In the chorus, both the arrangement and Williams's vocal come over all George Michael - in a good way. The song, which is reminiscent of Rudebox's standout track Lovelight, could well be a single.

Key lyric: "Ready steady go, everybody famous, everyone you know, why'd it take you ages?"

10. DIFFICULT FOR WEIRDOS

Robbie Williams
Williams is a self-confessed Pet Shop Boys fanatic

A song about not fitting in, Difficult For Weirdos is another track on which Williams' influences can clearly be heard. Its initial synth strings are eerily reminiscent of Depeche Mode's Enjoy The Silence.

Not for the first time in his career, Williams does a Neil Tennant impression while a vocoder effect adds to the robotic feel of the track. The French horn-led orchestral breakdown is Trevor Horn's finest moment on the album and harks back to his work on Tennant and Chris Lowe's Left To My Own Devices.

This time, the producer's magic dust makes Difficult For Weirdos sound, in parts, like a Pet Shop Boys A-side.

Key lyric: "Psycho-evolution your pollution, makes it difficult for weirdos, just another humanoid reaction to the voices in this town."

11. SUPERBLIND

Superblind, co-written by Williams's tour bassist Fil Eisler, begins with a programmed drum beat, strummy acoustic guitar and some laidback electronic piano before a "proper" drum fill signals the arrival of the melodic chorus.

The crashing guitars and descending string lines are reminiscent of the likes of Millennium and the instrumental break on Angels. Unlike the other tracks on the album, however, Williams fails to rein in his much-maligned propensity for sounding self obsessed.

Key lyric: "I can't help thinking about me, put a thought in for me, I'm the genius behind me, maybe I shouldn't have said it. Here's to the next century, what will they think when they think about me?"

12. WON'T DO THAT TO YOU

Williams says this brass-led feelgood song with its Motown-style chorus is his "very first love song". Presumably written about his current girlfriend Ayda Field, it is bursting with vitality - and the energetic repetition of the title in the chorus has radio play written all over it.

It's the happiest-sounding Williams song since 2003's number one single Something Beautiful which, coincidentally, is sonically similar to Won't Do That To You. Lyrics such as "I don't mind when the boys look at you, if I were them I'd be doing it too" are even forgivable in the context of throwaway pop that really works.

Key lyric: "I won't do that to you, won't do that to yo-u, do that to you, I wouldn't do that to you."

13. MORNING SUN (REPRISE)

Proceedings are brought to a close by a brief restatement of the opening track. In summary, Reality Killed The Video Star begins with some of Williams's strongest songs for years, falters halfway through before reigniting with a handful of standout tracks, including Starstruck and Won't Do That To You.



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SEE ALSO
Robbie returns at 'turning point'
04 Sep 09 |  Entertainment
Robbie to appear on the X Factor
14 Aug 09 |  Entertainment
Robbie announces comeback album
05 Aug 09 |  Entertainment
Robbie meets Take That in studio
28 Mar 09 |  Entertainment

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