Robbie Williams seems to have finally settled into a moment of peace with himself if this CD is any indication. Escapology strips down much of Mr Williams’ cockiness and self-parody that were evident in his previous CDs, and the tracks here are rockier, harder, but paradoxically more tranquil than anything else the man has ever done before.
Where his cockiness has blossomed into full-blown parody, here he tones it down into a more tolerable and even infectious level with gems like the profanity-laden Handsome Man (“It’s hard to be humble when you’re so fucking big, did you ever meet a sexier male chauvinist pig?”). But even then, there is obvious self-loathing in that one, with lines like “Please don’t drop me, I’ll fall to pieces on you. If you don’t see me, I don’t exist”. His unnecessary taunt at Geri Halliwell (as well as at himself) in Cursed, however, is really unworthy even for him – talk about kicking a wounded dog.
But most of the tracks here just see Mr Williams kicking back and having fun. Hot Fudge is one irresistible summer confection that has him bringing the whole house down with groovy no-nonsense rock like the best of rockers. Most of the uptempo songs here actually rock the house with very catchy hooks.
Lyrically, Mr Williams is mostly contemplative, although often he can be bitter. Feel is one of my favorite tracks in this CD because his vocals have a sincere and poignant ring to them that make lines like “There’s a hole in my soul, you can see it in my face – it’s a real big place!” work. Come Undone is a defiant anthem of a man who is going down but will fight every single second on his way down. Me and My Monkey is an irreverent reflection of his struggle with addictions and other self-destructive behavior. In tracks like these, Mr Williams seems to be still struggling with his inner demons – sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses, but he is never afraid to make his listeners voyeurs to his psyche. There is an intriguing duality in tracks like Feel and Love Somebody: the words to these songs are barren and pessimistic, but they have great rousing singalong choruses (especially Feel) that could provide listeners with the sweetest catharsis.
Yes, Mr Williams is still a self-absorbed twat, but Escapology is a gorgeous feast on the ears, and whatever his vocal deficiencies may be, Mr Williams can really bring down the house with his charisma. As much I dislike his smugness, I have to confess that this bastard seems to be coming off better than ever every time he makes an ass of himself in public.