Randy Newman – ‘Dark Matter’

Making sense of a world gone mad, Randy Newman’s latest album hits all the right notes.

Rattlin' around in the USA: Randy Newman's 'Dark Matter'
Rattlin’ around in the USA: Randy Newman’s ‘Dark Matter’

It takes someone like Randy Newman to make art out of the faith-v-science malarkey engulfing the discourse of what we thought were ‘civilised’ nations. In ‘The Great Debate’, Newman introduces multiple characters – a staple trait for him – but here he does something unique for him and gives them their own unique voice. He usually acts as the narrator of the song, as in ‘This is Randy singing about these folks’, but here he adapts personalities here… creationists vs scientists. It’s grand.

‘Putin’ is hilarious – a song in praise of a thug, which uses the same tropes as the thug himself to aggrandise him with hilarious results. ‘When he takes his shirt off, he drive the ladies crazy/ When he take his short off he make me wanna be a lady!’

Gloriously acerbic and as caustic as expected, the album adds old cranky pants giving his thoughts on the state of play, all the while including his glorious orchestral musicianship. ‘Lost Without You’, the winningest track, is glorious – despite the fact that Randy’s vocals have never been his strong suit.

‘Sonny Boy’ harks back to Good Old Boys-era Newman work, a song about a simple lad from Jackson, Tennessee, who has a story to tell and isn’t concerned that a name like Sonny Boy may bother you. And there’s always a grey area there, and you can’t figure out if he’s rooting for or against him.

The influences are aplenty – you can’t go a few minutes without hearing his New Orleans swing, the ragtime jams or the Scott Joplin influences he’s been carrying all his career.

‘She Chose Me’, much the same. Anyone who has enjoyed Randy Newman’s orchestral scores, even beyond the Pixar films, and is so endearing, charming, and beautiful, it ranks among his best work, and I can say that because I got married to ‘Something Special’.

Are you a fan? Gad danged, this is the business. If not, move on, I can’t tell you anything.

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