12 September 2005

if you go to robbiewilliams.com, point your mouse at "reveal your future," then point it at the icon that looks like some sort of odd tool ("inspired")--this is beginning to sound like a video game walk-through. but, yes, do this and you can hear robbie's new single, "tripping." really, it's worth sitting through the flash foofaraw b/c it may, it may be his best single ever.

robbie, history will show, reached his peak of crapulence w/ the swing when you're winning album, on which he duetted w/ nicole kidman, whom he was allegedly shagging, and covered nancy sinatra, whom he wasn't, though he was certain doing something untoward w/ her father's ghost. escapology followed. i thought guy chambers was gone at this point, but a quick check of allmusic shows that this isn't so: it merely sounds that way. the good songs, relative terms, on that album are ponderous ballads about the big things, as slow as they were serious. basically, it sounded like a gary barlow album.

fear not, though. he's returned to the sound that suits him best: uptempo dance numbers, part cheeky, part serious. on "tripping," he's gone a bit broadway: a little west side story, a little "nights on ... " the disparate elements that make up the song threaten to turn into a powderkeg: caribbean drums; keybs from a d.f.a. production; squelchy bass; "beat it" melodrama; skanking; barry gibb falsetto; paul buckmaster strings; a leiber-stoller lilt; cockney rhyming slang; hip-hop slang; an ian dury-inspired rap; bachrachian horns. good things all, from where i stand but it could verily easy come apart. which is why the best news of all is that robbie's found a new songwriting partner in stephen "tin tin (duran duran, lilac time, &c.)" duffy. dollars-to-doughnuts it's duffy who pulls all of this together and turns this gallimaufry into a genuine triumph, a song that soars like robbie's vocal on the chorus. it could only have been more of a conceptual coup if they'd brought in the village people (or neil tennant, for that matter) for backing vocals, "tripping" being a song, so far as i can tell, about a gangster looking for a better life, like a dream sequence in which ronnie kray singing "go west." if robbie was suffering from separation anxiety on escapology, he's clearly gotten out of his system. "tripping" is his best work in years.

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