Robbie Williams – Life Thru A Lens (1997): Review

life

Produced by Guy Chambers and Steve Power
Label – EMI

In a move similar to that of George Michael ten years previously, Williams attempted a defined transition from teen pop sensation as a member of Take That to serious pop rock recording artist. Having spent time in Michael’s company in the months leading up to his debut record, it’s likely that the singer received useful guidance for the road ahead and his first solo release was a cover of Michael’s 1990 hit “Freedom 90”, as a kind of back handed compliment. The decision to leave Take That had been partly enforced by management and the band members who objected to Williams’ increasing drug use and failure to meet the rigorous media and performing schedules. The continuous tabloid headlines of the “bad boy from Take That” maintained the spotlight, and tracking down Britpop heavyweights Oasis at Glastonbury for fortuitous pap snaps certainly suggested a move away from the lightweight, cheeky boy next door persona, to the hard partying, arrogant front man, fully in control of his artistic destiny. His resultant debut long player, co-conspired with musician and producer Guy Chambers is a credible collection, fulfilling an adult power pop sound which blends comfortably with Williams’ portrayal of the consummate showman.

williams

For all the shamelessly brash content of “Life Thru A Lens”, it’s the sentimental and sensitive ode to his mother on “Angels” that remains the standout, the most cherished song for newlyweds, and the song that bolstered sales of the record after a relatively slow start. An unstoppable ballad, fully fleshed out with a superb Chamber’s arrangement it firmly smacked in the face of the neigh-sayers who had previously considered him the washed up “fat dancer” from Take That. The brash, glammed up excess of “Let Me Entertain You” further cemented Williams’ claim as the new king of English pop, and the nod to Freddie Mercury in the video served notice that he could serve up the pomp just as well as his mentor. Elsewhere, the swagger and stomp, allied with snarky, often funny lyrics are evident in other highlights that include the opener “Lazy Days”, the wounded stab at former band mate Gary Barlow (“Ego A Go Go”), and the upbeat Brit pop of “Old Before I Die”.

Surprisingly, there’s little filler from an album that celebrates the singer’s self confidence and chest beating bravado and for all the showbiz shrapnel the listener has to endure, there’s a good, uncontaminated pop album waiting to entertain all and sundry.

7/10

Track Ratings
1 – Lazy Days (8)
2 – Life Thru A Lens (7)
3 – Ego A Go Go (7)
4 – Angels (9)
5 – South Of The Border (6)
6 – Old Before I Die (8)
7 – One Of God’s Better People (6)
8 – Let Me Entertain You (8)
9 – Killing Me (7)
10 – Clean (7)
11 – Baby Girl Window (6)

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