Robbie Williams Swings Both Ways (Universal Music)
Robbie Williams is the music industry’s favourite clown; a purveyor of utter silliness with underlying pathos. That he will rarely take himself or his music seriously is both his saving grace and his curse. Swings Both Ways does just what the title implies in returning to Williams’s most successful ever outing, Swing When You’re Winning – albeit with less crooning and more jazz and blues covers such as Minnie the Moocher and Putting on the Ritz – and presenting half an album of new songs. Back-to-basics tracks co-written by Guy Chambers, such as the sweet Go Gentle, offer music to accompany those big moments in people’s lives, while a roster of collaborators, from Rufus Wainwright to the populist likes of Lily Allen and Olly Murs, help create a comfortable, genuinely enjoyable album that will be a fine background to the festive season. Luckily, Williams remembers to introduce some bite in songs that could be designed for a future Robbie Williams: The Musical, including Shine My Shoes, Swing Supreme and No One Likes a Fat Pop Star. In an industry of serious narcissists, Williams suggests it could be time to send in the clowns.