Review: Randy Newman's 'Dark Matter' - Rolling Stone
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Review: Randy Newman Makes Irony Great Again on ‘Dark Matter’

The acerbic songwriting genius surveys hypocrisies and tragedies great and small

Randy Newman's latest album is 'Dark Matter'


Randy Newman is so busy as a film composer (most recently with Cars 3) that we get new albums from him only about once a decade. But the guy’s got pretty good timing: Just as 2008’s excellent Harps and Angels served as a sardonic send-off to the Bush era, Dark Matter greets #MAGA America with his signature brutal comic irony and heartbreaking grandeur.

The nine-minute “The Great Debate” is a Broadway-scale throwdown between religion and reason that’s so nuanced Newman himself even comes on trial for the hanging offense of elite liberal condescension, and the laugh-out-loud “Putin” celebrates the dictator’s sexual powers with mock-heroic orchestration and backing singers that suggest the Andrews Sisters in heat. Some of the more sweeping moments can feel forced; “Brothers” mashes up JFK, RFK, the Washington Redskins, the Cuban missile crisis and salsa great Celia Cruz over a Latin groove.

Small-scale dramas hit home harder, like “On the
Beach,” a wistful Western-swing tune about a depressing aged surfer
burnout, and the devastatingly beautiful solo-piano lament “Wandering Boy,”
in which a father mourns a gifted prodigal son he hasn’t heard from in ages. “If
you see him, lead him toward the light,” Newman sings, a prayer that
resonates with our wayward national spirit.

In This Article: Randy Newman


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