Monthly Archives: November 2013

Live from KCRW – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

After the release of the somewhat minimalist (or at least as minimalist as Nick Cave could possible be) release of ‘Push The Sky Away’, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds offer their latest album release of ‘Live from KCRW’, featuring stripped down versions of a few select tracks from the band’s back catalog, including classics such as ‘The Mercy Seat’ and ‘People Aint’ No Good’. On the record we hear Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds going for a more quieter approach on the tracks, creating a dark yet calm atmosphere that is ever so slightly worrying and haunting, yet highly enjoyable from a musical point of view. There’s a good number of enjoyable moments on ‘Live from KCRW’, with the best being the stripped down versions of some of the more stand-out Nick Cave songs.

There’s a nice selection of tracks present on ‘Live from KCRW’, with only four being from the band’s most recent release of ‘Push The Sky Away’. It’s a wonderful release from the band though, who seem to have updated their back catalog, and brought all their old songs into their ‘Push The Sky Away’ era. For those who were taken by what is arguably one of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ most beautiful records in their career, then ‘Live from KCRW’ will be a welcome addition to the collection. The album itself is essentially what one would expect from a live performance, featuring a good selection of tracks that span across the band’s career, as well as the appreciation of each song by the audience following each track’s ending. It’s the selection of songs, and the actual quality of sound on each recording that makes ‘Live from KCRW’ a very enjoyable record. Particular highlights on the album include Warren Ellis’ violin played over a stripped down version of ‘The Mercy Seat’, which sounds as though it could have been included on ‘Push The Sky Away’, as well as a wonderful guitar solo that closes the live version of ‘Mermaids’.

What might polarize certain fans is how different some of the tracks’ sound on ‘Live from KCRW’. It seems Nick Cave has gone for a smarter option of selecting songs from the previous albums that easily compliment the style of ‘Push The Sky Away’, though that hasn’t stopped him from reworking some of his more well known songs. It’s arguable that certain people might not take to the incredibly minimalist version of ‘The Mercy Seat’, which sounds absolutely nothing like the original recording in any way. The only real error though seems to be the album’s closing track ‘Jack The Ripper’, which doesn’t feature any reworking to compliment the style of the live album. Considering it follows on from the incredibly dark ‘Push The Sky Away’, the sudden urgency of ‘Jack The Ripper’ sounds a little too sudden and jarring for it to fit on the record, despite it being a great version of the song itself.

Although ‘Live from KCRW’ has an element of being just like any other live album, and features that added element of disappointment of listening to music you weren’t a part of (for most people), it still remains a great recording, as follows up as a nice addition after ‘Push The Sky Away’. Nearly everything seems to have been pulled off brilliantly, with each song sounding great on the album (as well as a few sounding better than the original album recordings). This more calmer and less urgent style of Nick Cave might not appease to everyone, but it seems it is offering some of his most rewarding work, resulting in some of the band’s best recordings. Considering the moves the band has made over the course of their career in terms of their sound and style, it will be great to see what they can manage next.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Higgs Boson Blues
  • The Mercy Seat
  • And No More Shall We Part
  • Mermaids

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ latest album ‘Live from KCRW’ is out now. 

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IDIMMU – Bamboo Diet

Montreal based noise-rock band Bamboo Diet offer up their latest album effort ‘IDIMMU’, featuring a brilliantly charged array of hardcore rock tracks featuring fuzzy noisy instrumentals and the customary pissed-off vocal styles so often found in the genre. On ‘IDIMMU’, Bamboo Diet go headfirst into their own style, never once losing steam as the album progresses along its 8 tracks. The whole album offers up the customary angry style that’s often seen in the genre, giving the album an emotional edge (albeit: an angry one).

There’s a great number of strengths present on ‘IDIMMU’, making it an album worthy of being checked out (and considering the album is available for a minimum price of nothing, (or more if you’re feeling generous) then what’s there to lose?). ‘IDIMMU’ opens up to the noisy fuzz rock style Bamboo Diet offer up, featuring the angry vocal style that helps to really shape the tracks into their individual shapes. What makes the album enjoyable is the how Bamboo Diet don’t ever seem to weaken up as the album progresses. There’s equal amounts of energy in every single song, giving it a great flow as the album progresses from track to track. Musically, the album is rather intense, making it highly listenable within its genre.

If any weaknesses are to be found in Bamboo Diet’s style of music, it is arguably in how the band often opt for fuzzy guitar and bass in the vast majority of their songs. It gives the album a comfortable flow, but at times it feels like the band should at least be trying other settings on their instruments to give their music a little bit more scope. In fairness to Bamboo Diet, the diversity in of each song comes in their structure rather than their sound, and in the phrasing of the lyrics that the band’s vocalist Terence Boisvert goes for in each song.

It might not be the best album of its genre, but the enjoyable elements of ‘IDIMMU’ are enough to make it an album that can be described as great. It’s a great album to just indulge in, and let the angry emotions of each song take over in the listening process. It demonstrates some nice levels of talent from the band members as well, who have a fair amount to when it comes to complete album packages. For now, Bamboo Diet can relax and be at ease at the fact that they’ve produced a great album, though it means they’ll have to look at other avenues to enrage them in their next recording.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Bloodlands
  • Muddle
  • Nefarious
  • Writhe

Bamboo Diet’s latest album ‘IDIMMU’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://bamboodiet.bandcamp.com/music

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Happyness EP – Happyness

After the release of a self-produced debut EP, lo-fi band Happyness move on to their latest self-titled EP release ‘Happyness’. Featuring four new charming and delightful songs, and boasting a mix from Ed Harcourt, Happyness offer a wonderful taster into their delightful style of lush lo-fi indie music. Across the four tracks, the band offer a nice range of styles and techniques, all of which is stemmed in accessible lo-fi music, though with some elements of experimentation. Everything seems to come across well, with the overall EP sounding enjoyable, with no weak moments that drag the music down.

The main strengths of Happyness come from their almost simple-sounding approach to everything. At not one point does Happyness ever seem to over-do anything, never once adding in unnecessary details that add nothing to the music. It’s the simple technique of less-is-more, with more of the natural-talents of Happyness coming through in their music. Everything results in music that is easily accessible and enjoyable, with there being no insisting elements or anything thrust upon the listener. It just flows in a comfortable and enjoyable way, as music should do. Each track as well offers a nice amount from Happyness, with there being a few different styles or ideas being demonstrated by the band. It results in an EP where each of the four tracks are all equally enjoyable for different reasons. Any faults in Happyness could be the odd technique here and there in the music that seems to just not work well for the song in general. At certain times, ‘Happyness EP’ seems to feature moments that don’t make a great deal of sense in terms of the overall EP experience, and at times it sounds a little bit jumbled or muddled up.

Happyness have managed though to produce a very enjoyable EP experience. Although there’s the odd moment or two in a few of the track that don’t add up, it’s never enough to detract from the experience that the EP offers, resulting in what is simply a very nice EP, featuring a lovely and enjoyable style from a delightful and charming band. It seems evidential that there’s a fair amount of scope being offered by Happyness, who have it in them to produce a really great sounding album, featuring a wonderful and diverse range of styles and motifs. Let’s hope all the strengths of ‘Happyness EP’ can translate into their future work for years to come.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • It’s On You
  • Orange Luz
  • Lascascadas
  • Montreal Rock Band Somewhere

Happyness’ latest EP ‘Happyness’ is set for release 6th January 2014 and can be ordered at: http://www.roughtrade.com/albums/78591

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Shangri La – Jake Bugg

Only a year after the release of his self-titled debut effort, Jake Bugg offers his second album titled ‘Shangri La’, which sees the budding musician once again indulging in his incredible natural talent of song-writing. On his latest album, Jake Bugg offers up a delightful selection of new tracks, some of which seem to branch off a little bit more than what was on the musician’s first album effort. The overall effect of the album is one that simply delights in the more simplistic elements of song-writing, the main technique being ‘less-is-more’. There is perhaps an element on ‘Shangri La’ that Jake Bugg hasn’t pushed himself much (if at all) from his debut effort, which makes the album a bit pointless to some extent.

It’s apparent on both the debut album ‘Jake Bugg’ and the latest release of ‘Shangri La’ that there is a lot of talent coming from Jake Bugg. It’s as though song-writing comes naturally to him, as though he automatically knows how to write a good song that is catchy, listenable and interesting all in one. A lot of songs on ‘Shangri La’ just exude fun and enjoyment, where all the elements of enjoyable music come through. Most of the elements in each song seems to work well, including the alternative-rock style of the instrumentals, to the Dylan-esque vocal style of Jake Bugg’s. All in all, it all comes together nicely to at least make ‘Shangri La’ a good follow-up to ‘Jake Bugg’.

The problem with ‘Shangri La’ is that it just doesn’t seem to be that much better or interesting than ‘Jake Bugg’. It’s as though Bugg has opted to just write a new record of material with better production values, rather than push himself as a musician and song-writer to write an album that is better than his debut effort. In some ways, ‘Shangri La’ is essentially Jake-Bugg-2, rather than a true second album. Considering how much talent there is in this song-writer, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to at least expect some element of the musician pushing himself to produce some great new material, rather than rehashing himself without producing anything new.

As enjoyable as ‘Shangri La’ is, it doesn’t seem to be a truly impressive album. There’s technically nothing wrong with the album, which at least continues the streak of enjoyable and well-written music that Jake Bugg has produced thus far in his career. It just would have been preferable to see the song-writer really push himself and produce a really great follow-up to ‘Jake Bugg’. At the moment, ‘Shangri La’ is an acceptable album that is all well and good, but has the added danger of suggesting that Jake Bugg is perhaps a one-trick pony, who doesn’t really have a great deal to offer.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆  3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Slumville Sunrise
  • A Song About Love
  • All Your Reasons
  • Simple Pleasures

Jake Bugg’s second studio album ‘Shangri La’ is out now.

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Morgan – Mayland

On ‘Morgan’, post-rock/shoe-gaze outfit Mayland go full-force with their branch of post-rock music, featuring fuzzy guitar chords and lead guitar lines to really push the music along at is slightly intense yet enjoyable pace. At times, Mayland go down a more shoe-gaze route of music, giving their music a little edge on their latest album effort. There’s many enjoyable elements on ‘Morgan’ which in some ways, isn’t a prime example of truly phenomenal instrumental rock music, but at the same time is inoffensive and enjoyable in its own rights.

There’s a lot of elements that work nicely on ‘Morgan’, making it an album/EP effort that is worth checking out. The tracks are mainly dominated by incredibly fuzzy guitar chords that crash through the backing instrumentals and really push it along, before being accompanied by the customary lead guitar that often makes up instrumental rock music. For the most part, it’s all very enjoyable, with there being a constant intense feeling that really keeps everything interesting and drawn in. What doesn’t work on ‘Morgan’ is how Mayland don’t seem to have enough ideas in terms of having a diverse range of songs. Most tracks seem to follow a formulaic route of Mayland’s fuzzy guitar chords, which after a while can become a little boring as there’s nothing else on show here. At times, there’s some nice suggestions that there’s some really great creative ideas by Mayland, but it doesn’t seem to have been translated into all of their songs.

It seems though that there’s enough ideas and talent from Mayland to make them a post-rock band that are worthy of listening to. Their most appealing element seems to be their technique of employing more shoe-gazing elements into their music, which for the most part works very well on ‘Morgan’, and at least sets it apart as being different from most post-rock albums. It just seems at times  that Mayland need to really attempt to diversify their sounds to really make their music great. There’s enough on ‘Morgan’ to make it an album/EP that is worth checking out, though we can only hope that it’s not the only trick Mayland have up their sleeve.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆  3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Enchilada
  • Dreamland
  • The Nineteen Nineties
  • Jane Lane

Mayland’s new EP ‘Morgan’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://maylandmusic.com/album/morgan

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Where Are You Now? – Kentucky Nightmare

There’s something almost simple about the music by Kentucky Nightmare, which in some odd way gives it an appealing element that makes it all listenable and enjoyable. On their latest album ‘Where Are You Now?’ the band indulge in manic ska-styled alternative rock music that’s just a little bit silly, a little bit amateurish, but somehow incredibly enjoyable for the most part. There’s a nice amount being offered by the band who just go for it with absolutely everything they’ve got. There’s an element of ‘Where Are You Now?’ becoming a little bit stale as it progresses along it’s track-listing, but for the most part it’s simply an enjoyable and fun album.

The main appealing elements of Kentucky Nightmare are their almost simple structures in their music, featuring very thrashy elements that are all toned down to give room for everything to be heard. At times, the band slow everything down, giving the album a bit more diversity than other bands within their genre. There’s some nice instrumental moments in a few of the songs, showing that Kentucky Nightmare actually don’t do the bare minimum other bands do to present their music, and instead have a nice amount of talent when it comes to their song-writing. The main thing is just how fun everything is, and how much fun the band must have been having when they recorded the album.

Where Kentucky Nightmare seem to fall a little flat is in how similar their instrumentals sound in each song. All they ever seem to do to diversify their music is either slow it down or speed it up. The sound of each instrument in most songs doesn’t seem to change all that much at all, and it would be nice to hear Kentucky Nightmare doing a little more in terms of their sound, pushing themselves a lot more than what they are doing to produce a record that is really strong. All the pieces of a good record are present on ‘Where Are You Now?’, and all it seems to need is that little extra push to get it over the edge.

For the most part though, Kentucky Nightmare have produced a fun and enjoyable record that features a lot of promise. Even though there’s an incredibly amateur element to the music (which in itself isn’t really a bad thing), there’s still an element of pure fun coming out through the music. It’s arguable that things might get a little bit repetitive, but the overall record contains enough to make it a good record that is worth checking out. In the meantime though, Kentucky Nightmare can at least enjoy everything they’ve managed to get right, and will hopefully work on their kinks on their next record if they decide to make one.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆  3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Sprung
  • Breaking Up Again
  • Rose Hill
  • I’m In Deep

Kentucky Nightmare’s latest album ‘Where Are You Now?’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://kentuckynightmare.bandcamp.com/releases

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James Arthur – James Arthur

Winner of the 2012 UK series of the X-Factor James Arthur finally gets around to presenting his debut album with his new self-titled release. Featuring the winning single of the X-Factor series, as well as some brand new songs, we finally get to hear a full offering from this fairly promising singer/songwriter. On his self-titled album, we can see the progression of the James Arthur we knew from the 2012 series of The X-Factor, and the new James Arthur whose had a year of experience dealing with the fame the series has garnered him. There’s a fair amount being offered by James Arthur on his new album, which is all well and good, but it seems there’s an element that the upcoming songwriter has completely missed the mark for some reason.

The parts that work on ‘James Arthur’ do really work, from the opening track to his collaboration with Emeli Sandé. Arthur goes for it on the opening track ‘You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You’, which is a brilliant full-force anthem of a track. Elements of rock, R&B and even soul are all combined together by Arthur to make one record package that is diverse and offers a lot to please fans. It’s music that is sure to please the vast majority of people, and not just those who are fans of the Top.40. It’s arguable that James Arthur has a little bit more going for him than most of the X-Factor winners, making Arthur one of the winners to keep an eye on.

We can see from his debut record that James Arthur has a lot to say, and a lot to offer, but there’s something that is incredibly lackluster and flat about the new record. After the punchy album opener, everything seems to sound a little bit confused, as though there’s not much thought into the direction the album is going in. It all feels over-produced, as though nobody, including James Arthur himself, had any real idea on how to bring out the best of the song-writer’s talents. Certain songs sound promising and are certainly enjoyable on a stand-alone basis, but the overall album just falls completely flat, making it a very poor debut effort. There’s simply not enough substance to make the record work, which is surprising considering James Arthur’s appearance on The X-Factor.

James Arthur might have some promise left inside him, but not enough of it has been pushed into his debut effort, which is sadly a poor way for the upcoming songwriter to start everything off. It’s a shame as there should be more being offered by Arthur, but we just haven’t received it. Perhaps James Arthur should just take a step back, and let his own ideas speak for themselves, without being over-produced and filled with unnecessary ideas, techniques and elements that do absolutely nothing for James Arthur. If this is what we’re going to get from James Arthur, then it’s not really worth considering for the time being, unless something is changed.

Album Rating:

  • ★★☆☆☆  2/5

Selected Songs:

  • You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You
  • Impossible
  • Roses

James Arthur’s debut album ‘James Arthur’ is out now. 

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The Marshal Mathers LP 2 – Eminem

13 years after the 2000 release of ‘The Marshal Mathers LP’, renowned rapper and song-writer Eminem presents the album’s sequel, ‘The Marshal Mathers LP 2’, picking up where the last album left off. On his new album, Eminem seems to not just return to the roots of his earlier records, but instead incorporate a lot of his new styles and experiences with his old styles to create a new record that is arguably the best of both worlds. Featuring an enjoyable balance of scathing lyrics that cut to the bone, to comedic lyrics that are simply amusing, Eminem reminds us of the sheer amount of talent he has when it comes to song-writing.

‘The Marshal Mathers LP 2’ is easily a step in the right direction when compared to the disappointing 2010 release of ‘Recovery’, which did little to show any progression on Eminem’s part. Now though, we see a lot more progression from Eminem who manages to incorporate the strengths from his previous disappointing records, and combine them with what made Eminem great in the first place. ‘The Marshal Mathers LP 2’ manages to come across as an incredibly strong record, featuring a wonderful array of tracks that demonstrate an interesting range of styles. Right at the forefront of the album’s strengths are Eminem’s lyrics though, which tell personal tales of family life, success and celebrity lifestyles. The whole album works well as a whole, with the album’s 80-minute length never feeling overbearing or too much.

It’s arguable though that at times, ‘The Marshal Mathers LP 2’ is a little too cutting at times in terms of the types of people it attacks (much like many of Eminem’s previous records). Although it can come across as entertaining to come extent, it also comes across as a little lazy, as though we’ve heard this side of Eminem time and time again, and why do we really need to hear it again? Considering the album’s best tracks are the ones that are much more personal to Eminem, where he presents his own stories and events from his life, it seems that the album doesn’t need to be cluttered with somewhat cheap attempts at attacking various celebrity figures, as it doesn’t really do much for the album anyway.

Eminem might have done himself proud on ‘The Marshal Mathers LP 2’ which might not be superior to its predecessor, but is at the very least a very worthy follow up. There’s a wonderful balanced element of new Eminem and old Eminem on the record as well, which comes together in a comfortable style, giving the record a lot of strengths.. It is perhaps one of the few rap albums of 2013 that manages to really contain some creative ideas, presenting Eminem as one of the more talented artists of his genre in these current years.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Bad Guy
  • Legacy
  • Stronger Than I Was
  • Evil Twin

Eminem’s latest album ‘The Marshal Mathers LP 2’ is out now. 

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A Day Without Distance – Anzio Green

Electronic duo Anzio Green offer their latest full-album effort titled ‘A Day Without Distance’, featuring lush electronic melodies that at times can relax and other times get you out of your seat. The overall album is one that suggests a lot of creative elements at play, and certainly a lot of creativity on Anzio Green’s part in terms of song-writing and structure. For the most part, the result is an album that is enjoyable, fun and interestingly paced. It seems to be an album with both conventional and unconventional methods, though not so unconventional to the point of being confusing and maddening. 

There’s a lot present on ‘A Day Without Distance’ that is simply enjoyable. Musically the band presents a fair amount, ranging from ambient electronic tracks that have a relaxing nature to them, to vocal-dominated pop-orientated electronic music that offers an interesting range in terms of musical styles on the album. What’s interesting is how Anzio Green manage to present a fair amount of styles and yet keep it all running smoothly, with no bumps or hiccups along the way. There’s even some nice experimentation by Anzio Green who attempt some rather unconventional ideas and manage to present them all in a way that is enjoyable. The whole album even seems to defy conventional genre classification from time to time. It is perhaps an electronic record, but there’s much more at play than just typical electronic ideas.

Where ‘A Day Without Distance’ goes a little wrong though is how there doesn’t seem to be much variety in terms of the actual sound being presented by Anzio Green. As songs progress from one to another, dynamics and styles chance somewhat, but the bare sound present on the record doesn’t deviate much from each song. Perhaps Anzio Green have attempted to deploy varying styles in a similar sounding way to each other, but it seems at fault on the record, with the result being an album that sounds like one continuing track that changes in dynamics from time to time.

The overall album may have its flaws here and there, but there’s enough present on ‘A Day Without Distance’ to make it an enjoyable record that seems to be a step away from more conventional artists (which works in the bands favour). The overall album easily works as a whole album experience, but there’s also an element of different tracks easily working on a standalone basis for different situations or moments. Anzio Green might have slipped up here and there on ‘A Day Without Distance’ but enough of the album works to showcase their talents and styles, and certainly show off what they can do with varying genres.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Morning Tea
  • Thunderstorm
  • Tall Grass
  • End Of An Error

Anzio Green’s latest album ‘A Day Without Distance’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://rednetic.bandcamp.com/album/a-day-without-distance

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Swings Both Ways – Robbie Williams

A year after 2012’s ‘Take The Crown’, Robbie Williams returns with an album that doesn’t follow on from his previous album record, but instead his 2000 release of ‘Swing When You’re Winning’. On his latest album ‘Swings Both Ways’, Williams returns to the swing genre in fine style, almost as though he never really left it. On his new album Williams delves deep into the enjoyable style of swing music, this time with his own compositions thrown into the mix. The result is an album that just exudes fun and enjoyment from every angle, never once losing the momentum it opens up with.

‘Swings Both Ways’ seems to be a vast improvement on 2012’s ‘Take The Crown’, which sported the odd enjoyable song here and there, but was overall a bit of a lackluster album experience. On his latest record, Williams presents a great album, featuring good songs that work well in the context of the overall album experience, and as individual songs themselves. What makes the album enjoyable though is how much fun Robbie Williams and his guest performers are having in the songs. Nobody seems to be having a bad time, which simply presents the album as one big enjoyable experience that is sure to really please Robbie Williams fans.

Whilst everything is fun and enjoyable, there doesn’t seem to be much of an element of Williams’ really pushing the musical side of the record. It’s certainly fun and bouncy, but it isn’t exactly anything impressive. Even Williams’ performance on some of the songs doesn’t exactly suggest that he is really pushing himself as a vocalist to give the best sounding performance in each song. The showmanship is certainly present on the album, giving it its appealing elements, but it isn’t enough to elevate the album’s status as being one of William’s best. It doesn’t even seem to be much of a step forward from the 2000 release of ‘Sing When You’re Winning’, which is easily the superior swing album in this case.

Perhaps William’s purpose of this album isn’t to surpass his previous efforts, or perform the cover songs better than anyone before him or whatever, but instead to just release an album where everything is enjoyable. The sheer amount of enjoyable elements are enough to make it a good album worth listening to and enjoying. Perhaps one or two of the songs chosen for the record are a little bit too cheesy and don’t offer a great deal for the album, but the fun everyone is having is enough. It might not be William’s best album in his career, or one of the best swing albums to have been released in recent years, but it is easily one of the most fun.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Shine My Shoes
  • Swings Both Ways
  • Dream A Little Dream
  • No One Likes A Fat Pop Star

Robbie William’s latest album ‘Swings Both Ways’ is out now.

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