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500 British Albums Better Than Robbie Williams' Discography


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So in the 'HMV Top 60 British Albums' thread, Vamp made the pretty spurious claim that Robbie Williams had LPs that deserved their place amongst the classic records this country has ever produced. I replied that anyone with a serious interest in music would never corroborate this viewpoint, and said somewhat flippantly that I could name 500 British albums better than anything Robbie Williams has put out. Triple A challenged me to back up this claim, and since I'm a man with time on my hands who enjoys a good project, here it is.

 

I'll try to add a few words about each album, rather than putting a long list without any reasoning. I'll avoid posting cover art as I don't want to make the thread huge.

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I think if you try and write something about each album, this thread could actually go on for years (which might actually be quite funny). I reckon it's definitely doable though. There are easily 10 British albums this year that are better than anything Williams has offered, rinse and repeat over the last 50 years and you're good to go.

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Just for comparison. Tracklist for Robbie Williams' 'Life Thru A Lens' album. So every album has to be better than this. Singles in bold.

 

Track listing

 

"Lazy Days" – 3:52

"Life Thru a Lens" – 3:06

"Ego a Go Go" – 3:31

"Angels" – 4:23

"South of the Border" – 3:52

"Old Before I Die" (Williams, Child, Bazilian) – 3:52

"One of God's Better People" – 3:33

"Let Me Entertain You" – 4:20

"Killing Me" – 3:55

"Clean" (Williams, Glenn, Slattery, Cook, Hawley) – 3:51

"Baby Girl Window" – 6:10

"Hello Sir" (Hidden Track) (Williams) - 1:35

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Whilst his output is largely shite, I thought Life Thru A Lens was pretty good.

 

Edit - BB just mentioned it at the same time. There is at least 4 decent tracks there. 4 out of 12 isn't bad.

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Whilst his output is largely shite, I thought Life Thru A Lens was pretty good.

Yeah....I'm thoroughly ashamed to admit it but I like four songs from that album. And that'd probably be 6 if 'Angels' and 'Let Me Entertain You' weren't so ridiculously overplayed.

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Firstly, I should probably mention that I have indeed heard every Robbie Williams album, so am not basing my comments on mere assumption. Just to get an idea of what we're up against, here's a short summary of his discography;

 

Life Thru A Lens: Pretty average solo debut. 'Let Me Entertain You' does it's job but is still pretty awful lyrically and musically, 'Angels' is 'Angels', post-Oasis anthemic dirge that nevertheless probably sounds good live after numerous units of alcohol. Otherwise they do a pretty good job building the Williams persona, the self confident, egotistical, cheeky boy ego. Forgettable stuff. 5.1/10

 

I've Been Expecting You: Follow up that came unusually quick in the context of the time. Starts with a fairly strong run of singles, 'Millennium' is tacky but catchy, 'Strong' is alright, the verses are better than the choruses, 'No Regrets' is actually pretty good lyrically and one of the best things he's ever done. The only way is downhill after that though, just Williams/Chambers by numbers, following their formula and searching for hits, while still managing to have a bit more personality than a lot of pop records. 'Phoenix From The Flames' is nice. Nothing you haven't heard before. 5.1/10

 

Sing When You're Winning: His best selling album as far as I know. It's same-old-same-old; you have the anthemic hands in the air singalongs ('Let Love Be You Energy', 'Supreme'), the simplistic love songs ('Better Man''), the absolutely horrific 'cheeky chappy' party numbers where he thinks it's a good idea to rap ('Rock DJ', 'Kids'). Only 'The Road To Mandalay' is worth returning to, a cute little acoustic song. The flip side Eternity was nice too, even though it didn't make the album. By this point his persona is wearing thin and the songs are looking more and more formulaic. 4.8/10

 

Swing When You're Winning: One thing the world didn't need was Williams butchering ratpack songs. At least it's better than Westlife's 'Allow Us To Be Frank', although since almost anything is better than Westlife that's kind of damning with faint praise. He does 'Bojangles' and 'Somethin Stupid' alright. Other than that there are far, far superior versions of these tracks to the ones on here. 5.3/10

 

Escapology: Released around his peak, this is overlong and under-interesting. 'Feel' continues the singalong piss up vein of the rest of his work, with the usual soaring choruses and euphoria tinged with regret, while 'Me And My Monkey' is a mildly interesting account of a drug fuelled trip to Vegas. Once again, though, this just becomes too dull, too safe, too boring, there's never any chances taken with the sound, and though the lyrics could be seen as somewhat edgy, dealing with themes of drugs and depression, even that feels calculated and sanitised when it should have been stripped down and raw. This album also contains 'Nan's Song', a tune as woeful as its title suggests. 5.1/10

 

Intensive Care: Where is all started to go wrong. Only hit number three on the charts and easy to see why, there's literally no reason to buy this if you own another Williams record as it's simply rinsing and repeating the formula, at a time when indie rock was in fashion and nobody wanted bland pop star music anymore. 4.2/10

 

Rudebox: This much maligned record might be my favourite thing Williams ever did. At least it’s slightly interesting sonically, which is more than can be said for the rest of his discography. Here he tries (with somewhat varying results) 80s synth pop (We’re The Pet Shop Boys/She’s Madonna), Mike Skinner style UK beat poetry slash hip hop (The 90s/The 80s), electro rap (Rudebox), seductive electro pop (Lovelight) and a hidden track called ‘Dickhead’ which is amongst the worst things ever committed to tape, by anyone, anywhere. So this album is horrific in every sense of the word, and if you hate the Williams persona you’ll absolutely despise this as he turns it up to the fullest. I quite like some of this, and it’s kind of entertaining, albeit in a hideous way. Tennant, Lowe and Xenomania manage to make some of the tracks bearable at least. 5.9/10

 

Reality Killed The Video Star: Painfully average yet reasonably defendable comeback record. Title and sleeve were good, and I actually really enjoyed the lead single 'Bodies', the production on it was great although the chorus was pretty suspect. In fact, the production on here is the best he's ever had on record. Shame the actual songs never go beyond 'decent'. 5.7/10

 

Live At Knebwoth: Feel like I should include this as it's easily the most important and memorable thing he did, playing to 375,000 people over three searing hot days in 2003, and he actually lived up to the reputation of the master showman. He is by turns cocky, emotional and always entertaining - people underestimate how hard it is not only to sing but to banter on stage to a crowd that size, not get nervous and keep everyone in thrall even at the back. The start to 'She's The One' is maybe the high point of his whole career, classy and witty. His voice actually sounds fucking great on this, too. Still, the DVD is a whole lot better than the album, which doesn't really convey the gravity and size of it all, plus they leave out 'No Regrets', which is his best live performance, aided by some fantastic video directing and lighting that really conveys his energy. It's probably a drag to sit through/listen to more than once, but credit where it's due. 7.2/10

 

I think I've been actually fairly generous here, I don't think my words and ratings managed to fully convey the mediocrity, blandness and pure dreadfulness of most of the songs on these albums. Most I haven't heard for a few years, so I'm going by memory or stuff I wrote on them at the time.

 

And please let’s not talk about Take That. Gary Barlow might look slightly suave in a suit and pulls off stubble better than most, but he writes the most clich

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Whilst his output is largely shite, I thought Life Thru A Lens was pretty good.

Yeah....I'm thoroughly ashamed to admit it but I like four songs from that album. And that'd probably be 6 if 'Angels' and 'Let Me Entertain You' weren't so ridiculously overplayed.

Are we in total harmony here and in agreement that Lazy Days, Life Thru a Lens, Ego a Go Go and Old Before I Die are the 4 decent ones?

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Tough project, as Life Thru a Lens is one of the best debut albums by a singles pop artist this country produced in a long time.

 

Whilst I understand your general hatred of Williams, the problem is that Guy Chambers is a seriously good songwriter and those albums are not the usual "2 singles and a bunch of fillers" type pop album. They had a series of proper good smash hits, those two, plus the absolutely lovely cover of "She's The One" by World Party.

 

There are hundreds of acts and bands, with much more credible back catalogues, that have never released a single that has the cultural and personal resonance of "Angels". You may not like it, but for millions and millions of people, it's "their" song. They play it at their weddings, at their funerals. It's a piece of British cultural history now, alongside that small band of songs like "Hey Jude" or "Bohemian Rhapsody". Whatever else you may think of him, he deserves his place in music legend for that.

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Whilst his output is largely shite, I thought Life Thru A Lens was pretty good.

Yeah....I'm thoroughly ashamed to admit it but I like four songs from that album. And that'd probably be 6 if 'Angels' and 'Let Me Entertain You' weren't so ridiculously overplayed.

Are we in total harmony here and in agreement that Lazy Days, Life Thru a Lens, Ego a Go Go and Old Before I Die are the 4 decent ones?

Almost. 'Lazy Days', 'South of the Border', 'One of Gods Better People' and 'Old Before I Die'. Although 'like' is probably a bit much, I don't have any of them on my 2,500 strong 'favourites' Spotify playlist but I heard 'South of the Border' on the radio last week and I didn't switch it off.

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Tough project, as Life Thru a Lens is one of the best debut albums by a singles pop artist this country produced in a long time

 

I obviously disagree. Post-Oasis derivative turd, with a couple of catchy singles that weren't too bad. The record never goes beyond average.

 

that have never released a single that has the cultural and personal resonance of "Angels".

 

Um, what cultural resonance does Angels have? Who did it influence? Whose lives did it change? What does it define? What does it even mean? When it comes down to it, Angels is just a generic pop anthem, albeit a pretty decent one.

 

Cultural resonance is Velvet Underground inspiring wave after wave of future great bands. Cultural resonance is Bob Dylan changing the way popular music was perceived, and becoming a figurehead for a generation and inspiring them to protest and fight for change. Cultural resonance is early hip hop having a huge impact on street attitudes, street clothing, black politics. Cultural resonance is punk acts changing the way music was made, changing the way people dressed, changing the way people behaved.

 

Robbie Williams hasn't inspired any movements in art, fashion or music. He sang a song that a lot of people play at weddings and funerals - so did James Blunt, for what it's worth. Nobody is claiming he has any cultural relevance.

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I 100% endorse this thread, but 500 albums? His first album will take some beating, I personally don't think you'll get half as many.

 

Also just to clarify, I fucking hate Robbie Williams so I do wish you luck.

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