Robbie Williams - In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010

Fair play to Robbie Williams. He's done everything he can - and more - to ensure us right-minded types keep our noses fully turned up. I can't begin to piece together how many hours I've spent simply being irritated by the boy. Previous offences to be taken into consideration include: the ride he hitched on the swing bandwagon; the ever-gurning ADHD 'personality'; 'Rudebox'; supporting Port Vale and, most recently, a regrouping with his old band mates - the first fruits of which challenge to the extreme any goodwill Gaz and the boys have recovered over the past few years.

And still, despite all this, despite his never having really offered anything of worth to the public record, not one really quotable soundbite amidst his overflowing library of daft quips, you find yourself wanting to give him another chance. 'Learning to Love Robbie.' Don't Waterstone's have entire sections dedicated to this stuff ?

Partly because his return last year came with a notably altered personality - less arsing about, more reflection and humility - and probably his best album to date (Reality Killed the Video Star), it's not so difficult for those of us who've been indifferent at best to hop back on board. Robbie Mk 2 emerged from Robbie World, saw that his popularity had dipped like Bella Emberg on a seesaw and stepped out anew, minus his usual lip and with an ounce of (semi)seriousness) in its place. Better, much better.

Bastards like me approach this second Best Of (meatier than the previous Greatest Hits) with the record expunged. When it sings, as it most definitely does on the likes of 'Supreme', 'Milennium', 'Kids', the soaring 'No Regrets', it's bolstered by some of the sparkiest chart pop of the past fifteen years. Yeah, the early stuff is lumpen MOR but he soon put the Liam Gallagher fixation aside to get on with being the country's biggest pop star. The lyrical moxie relies far too much on chirpy wordplay ("I'm an honorary Shaun Connery" indeed) but I still say the line about Kiss on 'Strong' is razor sharp.

It counts for a great deal, surely, that his recent stuff indicates a muse coming back to life. How about this from 'Morning Sun'? "You always wanted more than life / But now you don’t have the appetite / In a message to the troubadour / The world don’t love you anymore." For sheer guts and self-inflicted open heart surgery it kicks previous posturing into touch.

What else? There's no reprieve in the offing for 'Angels', sadly. Though it saved his career and launched his superstar status, rhyming "protection" with "lotta love and affection" remains unforgivable rhyme crime. There is other guff, of course, and let's hope 'Shame', the much-hyped reunion with Gary Barlow, is not indicative in its limp balladry, of the forthcoming Take That album, which is required to be nothing other than thrusting and growling with dance pop genius. Of course, the great irony here is that when all the sales and kudos transferred almost overnight to his bandmates, and talk was suddenly of how much he needed them, he had the effrontery to return with an album of real worth. Which people actually went out and bought! But, going with the official line, the reunion became almost unavoidable, gathering pace after those first tentative meet-ups. That the boys had him back when, finally, they didn't actually need him speaks well of them, no doubt. If its first fruits are too schmaltzy for words, let's give Rob and Gaz their cabin on the loveboat and hold off with the tomatoes. To be up for the prospect of Take That back in original form is one thing. To ponder the intriguing return of a rejuvenated Robbie once they've spent a couple of years taking over the world again, well, that's just ludicrous. But not that ludicrous.



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