Randy Newman

Harps + Angels | Nonesuch
By ZETH LUNDY  |  August 12, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars
0815_randyINRandy Newman could have titled his first new studio album in nine years More Songs About Politicians, Dubious Old Men, and Humanity's Ineptitude, but that would have been too obvious. Harps & Angels is a much better title, because, like Newman’s best work, it hides its darkness in phony sunshine — after all, this is the guy who wrote a song from the point of view of a God who gets his kicks watching people suffer. God doesn’t make an appearance here, though the narrator of the title track embellishes his near-death experience to make a good story. The music is vintage/predictable Newman, full of ’Nawlins boogies and understated ballads, and as on 1999’s Bad Love, lyrics are spoken as often as sung, so the songs have the air of a porch-side ramble. This works on “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country,” the not-so-subtle rip of the Bush administration that doubled as a New York Times op-ed piece last year. Funnier still are the elbows thrown at celebrity activism (“A Piece of the Pie”) and dumb American kids (“Korean Parents”). Yet as welcome as it is to have Newman’s acerbic wit back, it remains a singular pleasure to listen to a simple, devastating ballad like “Losing You,” which is wrapped up in sympathetic strings and absolutely devoid of irony. I think.
Related: Various Artists | Where the Action Is: Los Angeles Nuggets 1965 - 1968, Ones and twos, Listen!, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Randy Newman, Randy Newman, Zeth Lundy
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BROWN BIRD | FITS OF REASON  |  March 18, 2013
    Brown Bird, a boundary-pushing Americana duo from Rhode Island, make music that touches upon that can't-put-my-finger-on-it amalgamation of past and future sounds.
  •   NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS | PUSH THE SKY AWAY  |  February 20, 2013
    Much like the similarly low-key The Boatman's Call , Cave's highly anticipated 15th album with the Bad Seeds manages the puzzling feat of making a great band seem inconsequential, if not entirely absent.
  •   SCOTT WALKER | BISH BOSCH  |  November 27, 2012
    Scott Walker's late-period about-face is one of the strangest in the annals of pop music.
    Bill Withers has always been the down-to-earth, odd-man-out of the '70s soul brothers: he's the one who came bearing a lunch box on the cover of his relaxed 1971 debut, Just as I Am .
  •   R.E.M. | DOCUMENT [25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION]  |  September 19, 2012
    Fans of R.E.M. enjoy arguing over which album was the band's true shark-jump, but 1987's Document was inarguably the end of a groundbreaking era.

 See all articles by: ZETH LUNDY