Robbie Williams recently appeared on The Graham Norton Show to share an anecdote about the time he was w**ked off by a stranger in a rented castle. The woman, he told Norton, had wandered in off the street. “She could have been anywhere from 28 to 58. She went, ‘Have you got morning glory?’ I said, ‘Yeah!’ She said, ‘I’ll w**k you off!’”
Williams is a proper, old-fashioned pop star who knows it’s part of his job to say and do ridiculous things. Look at ‘Party Like A Russian’, the lead single from ‘The Heavy Entertainment Show’, a demented march through a minefield of clichés about Rasputin and Russian dolls, with a chorus that samples Prokofiev’s ‘Dance Of The Knights’ (The Apprentice theme) and boasts the exceptional line: “’Ave it like an oligarch.” It’s not even a great song – the chorus is a bit lumpen – but it’s weird and mad and makes the world a little more colourful.
Some of the album is questionable. Take the unwieldy big band swing of the title track and the forgettable ‘Love My Life’, a vanilla ballad that sees Robbie lament his past mistakes. But there is gold here too. ‘Motherf**ker’ is a warm pop-rock banger addressed to his baby son: “Your grandma is a fluffer / Your grandad’s in the gutter / Your mother is a nutter… We are mad motherf**kers /You’re a bad motherf**ker.”
People say that Robbie, after years of ups and downs, finally mellowed when he married and found domestic bliss. Here, he recasts the Williams household as a successor to The Osbournes. ‘Pretty Woman’ is a thumping, country-tinged hoedown and ‘Sensitive’ is slinky electro-pop that uncoils with the same confidence as ‘Kids’, his classic 2000 collaboration with Kylie Minogue. That, and much of the rest of the album, confirms that Robbie’s reconciliation with his estranged hitmaking songwriter Guy Chambers was one worth making, helping him recapture some of the verve of his early noughties imperial phase – albeit refocused through the lens of a man who spenta few wilderness years alien-hunting in Nevada. There’s still no other British pop star quite as entertaining and unpredictable. May he be w**ked off in rented castles forevermore.