Album Review: Dark Matter, Randy Newman

Vintage effort from cult songwriter.

A mini-opera of several movements, documenting the debate between science and religion, examining dark matter, and disproving the theory of evolution using a giraffe, before it goes all At Swim-Two-Birds as a character turns on the songwriter – that’s how you open an album. You then follow it up with the Kennedy brothers planning the Bay of Pigs invasion until Jack ruins it all, revealing his love for none other than Celia Cruz. Just as the late Warren Zevon could write a song about anything, Newman’s master craftsmanship needs no introduction. If it does, go listen to ‘Louisiana 1927’ from 74’s Good Old Boys, or Toy Story’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’. Admit it, it’s already playing in your head.

Other characters are introduced over variations of Newman’s usual ragtimey arrangements – Sonny Boy Williamson’s ghost badmouthing the man who stole his name, a beach bum watching history go by, Monk the bananas germaphobe detective, and Vladimir Putin, who thinks it’s Russia’s turn in the comfy chair. Newman might want to start checking his chicken soup for polonium-210.

And then there are the ballads. ‘She Chose Me’ has a narrator incredulous in the face of his romantic good fortune. Sing it to your wife or girlfriend, not at the same time of course, and never be asked to take the bins out again. ‘Wandering Boy’ is a father’s prayer for his lost son, and, best of all, ‘Lost Without You’ is the tale of a man whose dying wife orders the kids to look after her husband no matter what. All three would break the heart of a tyrant, and are standards waiting to happen. Exceptionally good.




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