Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Robbie Williams – Bodies

The world’s most famous Port Vale fan returns…


Pete Baran: The plus point of a bonkers Robbie is even if the songs aren’t that good, they are interesting. So UFOlogist Robbie makes a poppy Charlatans record where he disses Christianity with an expensive sounding orchestra. The sort of record that makes it easier for him to rejoin Take That.

Alex Macpherson: Stupid lyrics which mistake blathering about Jesus and cemeteries for meaning, a voice in a permanent state of overreach and a vague whiff of Kula Shaker about the dirgey music: all those memories of the horrifying years when Williams seemed entrenched in the British charts are coming back to me now. I swear only this country could enable the success of such a fundamentally useless man.

Ramzy Alwakeel: It used to come so naturally. Desperate for Classic Lead Single status, “Bodies” unleashes an arsenal of anthemic rhetoric that conclusively gets the better of the song’s integrity. Its structural discontinuity (a nod to Xenomania?) is unbalanced by the premature overloading of the arrangement: Trevor Horn may be the undisputed master of this sort of production, but the song itself is so try-hard that the finished record sounds over-exerted, which bodes worryingly for the album. Sadly, the project doesn’t seem to be aimed at the people who liked Rudebox, which may well turn out to have been Williams’ last compelling move.

Alex Wisgard: Initially, it sounds like a desperate attempt to claim back lost ground. The verses are as ersatz electro as his last album, but the crucial difference between “Bodies” and “Rudebox” is its bombastic, Millennial chorus, courtesy of Saint Trevor Horn. It’s polished, faintly ridiculous and absolutely radio-ready — all the hallmarks of classic Robbie, but it isn’t quite a Robbie classic.

Matt Cibula: Sounds great, but mostly because Trevor Horn is a genius and because I happen to love the Alan Parsons Project and Tears for Fears. The lyrics have some cuteness to them but make no damn sense whatsoever: “Bodies in the Bodhi tree” is ace, but I still can’t figure out if Jesus died for me or not here.

Tom Ewing: Robbie returns doing much the same things he was panned for when he left: waxing philosophical, talking bobbins, not bothering to sing, certainly not bothering to write another “Angels”. As one of the very very few whose favourite Williams single is “Radio”, I heartily approve, and I was surprised by the rush of recognition and pleasure I got from “Bodies”. He really doesn’t need the Jesus stuff in there, but the rest is a great example of the anthemic cynicism he’s always traded in, except now a lot sharper. I can hum it six hours after I played it, too, which shouldn’t be as rare as it is.

Alfred Soto: In interviews Robbie Williams presents himself as such a lad that the Europop sensibilities of his tunes naturally comes as a shock, almost as sad as the fact that the tunes aren’t often very good. Juxtaposing a grunge riff against strings, then asking Trevor Horn to apply a smooth lacquer finish, Robbie presents a tastier, more pungent cheese than what he’s proffered since 2000; it’s like he’s found the Ideal Cheese. Palling around with the Pet Shop Boys helped.

Martin Kavka: This weak excuse for a single — a mishmash of Bond theme, gospel, and sex that places “epic” in a blender and presses puree until it’s the consistency of pablum — makes me wonder whether Pet Shop Boys have a secret plan just to go around committing manslaughter on other artists’ careers until they’re the only pop act left standing. Liza Minnelli couldn’t get a hit after Results, Girls Aloud couldn’t go Top 10 after “The Loving Kind,” and apparently “She’s Madonna” has led Robbie into this crap.

Martin Skidmore: I was desperately wishing this would be a Sex Pistols cover, but I knew it wouldn’t be. He sings slickly enough, but he sounds a bit uninterested on a lot of it, which is understandable given how awkwardly parts of it fit together, despite some genuinely imaginative Trevor Horn production.

Chuck Eddy: Both this “Bodies” and the Sex Pistols’ “Bodies” feature people who live in trees! But I’m not sure whether Pauline’s was a Bhodi Tree, or not.

Mordechai Shinefield: Robbie claims to be laid across a ley line in the opening verse, the body of the reclining pop star pointed towards God. The rest of the song straddles the line between embodiment and divinity; at times using God as a metaphor for Robbie himself (“love living like a deity”), or on the body as sexual form (“praying for the rapture”). The real contradiction for Robbie, though, isn’t God and sex, but God and Robbie. The Bodhi Tree is supposed to bring revelation and awareness, but Robbie is still stuck on himself; “All we’ve ever wanted / Is to look good naked… / God save me rejection / From my reflection.” In the end, it’s not that Robbie is the ley line pointing towards God, it’s that God is a ley line pointing back at him.

Briony Edwards: His voice is as irritating and tuneless as always, but the most confusing thing about this song is the structure – it sounds like three different songs condensed into one, with a baffling Marilyn Manson-esque introduction thrown in for good measure.

Iain Mew: The whole thing is a bit reminiscent of current Eminem: a zombie version of himself that remembers what to do, but not how or why.

Edward Okulicz: Another immaculate, expensive single with abrupt dynamic shifts, awful clever-clever lyrics and a total nothing of a chorus.

Doug Robertson: Robbie knows what his fans want; songs that sound half decent on the radio, can be relied upon to get thousands of people clapping along in time at some enormous outdoor gig, and do as little as possible to upset the musical apple cart. Or at least he knows this now after he tried to do something a bit more interesting on his last album and was faced with a flop that even seasoned sewer workers would think stunk a bit. This is, well, alright. It’s likeable, Trevor Horn’s production gives a few interesting nuggets here and there, and it’ll remind Robbie fans why they sided with him instead of Take That in the first place, but for the rest of us it’s little more than another piece of aural fluff that won’t really trouble our memories once it’s bade its farewell to the playlists.

Anthony Easton: I await the 4 hour concept album.

7 Responses to “Robbie Williams – Bodies”

  1. Tom: Radio is my second favourite single of his, after Trippin

  2. KULA SHAKER! That’s who it sounds like!

    OK Robbie singles: “Trippin'”, “Supreme”, “Lovelight”. I also think “Rudebox” is way better than people say! I heard this in a shoe store today, it made me want to not purchase shoes.

  3. Girls Aloud couldn’t go Top 10 after “The Loving Kind,”

    the one single they’ve released since went to #11. Stick a fork in them, they’re done!

  4. I liked ‘Lovelight’ a lot, mainly because he didn’t spend the entire song with his elbows pointed outwards doing a cheeky chappy Dick Van Dyke cockney jig and smugly nodding his head like he thinks we all think he’s a charming rascal. It’s that arrogant smirk with ZERO charm to back it up that means I really find Robbie hideous (I cheered when he left Take That) – only the songs onto which his personality makes a very vague impression (like ‘Lovelight’) manage to come out unscathed.

  5. it’s a bit too much Black Grape b-side for me.

  6. “Keep On” and “Good Doctor” off the last album are practically Black Grape songs, come to think of it.

  7. I absolutely loved “Rudebox,” so this is not the direction I wanted Robbie to go.