“A Place Like This.” EMI Manhattan **
You don’t expect too much substance or insight from Robbie Nevil, and you don’t get too much here. You do expect engaging, rhythmic dance-floor ditties--a la his 1986 smash “C’est La Vie"--and you do get plenty of them on this second album. With that none-too-demanding set of expectations, there wasn’t much fear of Nevil suffering the dreaded sophomore slump. He continues to merge soul, pop and rock elements in a completely unchallenging but pleasantly frothy package.
Take the first single from the album. “Back on Holiday” rides a snaking, industrial-size rhythm through catchy pop/R&B; territory. You keep waiting for the lyrics to move beyond saluting the merits of vacationing and operate as a metaphor or some comment on escapism, but it never happens. While there are few lyrical leaps or twists anywhere here--Nevil and his collaborators often confuse simplicity with simple-mindedness--he does introduce some musical wrinkles, from the heavier emphasis on guitar to the unlikely lounge-piano foray of “Here I Go Again.”