• Williams parties hard on the bittersweet Rudebox.
Genres: Pop, British, dance
Released: October 2006 (import, iTunes)
Brit superstar Robbie Williams' cheeky pop never gained traction on rock-loving American radio; after a couple of minor 1999 hits, "Millennium" and "Angels," the latter of which just missed the top 40, he was all but forgotten. His latest, Rudebox, a hefty 17-track album dominated by Euro pop-dance cuts, doesn't appear to even be getting a U.S. release outside of iTunes. That's unfortunate, because it's actually a fun, more listenable effort than The Ego Has Landed, which was supposed to make him a star in the U.S. The sort-of companion pieces "She's Madonna" and "We're the Pet Shop Boys," both produced by synth gods Pet Shop Boys, each serve as tributes to pop heroes. The former is a hooky glitter ball that might make the queen of pop blush and the latter a cover of My Robot Friend's ode to PSB ("what have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?"). Offsetting the high-energy cuts are "Louise," a William Orbit-produced cover of the classic Human League downer, and "The 80's," arguably the most inspired track of the set, with boldly frank couplets such as, "They didn't have A.D.D. / Thick was the term they used for me." Its companion piece, "The 90's," is about his Take That years and doesn't match "The 80's" musically or lyrically. While Williams exorcises his demons in those decades songs, he could eject three or four of the weaker tracks (I'll suggest "Good Doctor," "Never Touch That Switch" and the caustic hidden track for starters) for a near-great pop album.
// Download picks // The 80's, She's Madonna, We're the Pet Shop Boys, Louise