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Randy Newman is in fine form


Randy Newman, Dark Matter
  • Randy Newman, Dark Matter
As Randy Newman has drifted off in the direction of instrumental soundtrack production, many have missed hearing the razor-sharp tongue of a master. After all, he’s only released three “proper” albums in nearly two decades. But Dark Matter makes up for that scarcity. The album title refers to a cosmological mystery, but can just as easily be taken as an analogy for his worldview, making the new album a kind of expanded take on his sardonic 1999 song “The Great Nations of Europe.” From the opening nine-minute comical battle between science and faith, “The Great Debate,” to his tongue-in-cheek fan missive to Vladimir Putin, Newman is in fine form here. Not only are the lyrics ruthless, but the arrangements and studio orchestra can change on a dime, as in the slow ode to the 1961 Bay of Pigs, “Brothers,” that turns into a Cuban dance devotion to Celia Cruz. Age has not softened Newman’s tongue in the slightest. Where some topical albums rail against particular targets, Newman is brash enough to say, “Everything sucks and so do we.”
File next to: Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, Van Morrison

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