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30 from 17: Jason Considers Some LPs

Jason Lewis considers 30 long players that he doesn't always love, though they made their mark. #30 Randy Newman. #29 Cigarettes After Sex

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by Jason Lewis, UK Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: December, 2017
Randy is the Anchor

#30 
Randy Newman
Dark Matter
(Nonesuch)

One of the most excruciating interviews on the early evening TV programme 'The One Show' I've witnessed came when Randy Newman was booked on to the show to promote his last album 'Harps and Angels'.  

The ever-jovial Matt Baker proudly informs Newman that his kids 'love your music.' It's an ill-researched remark but Newman was too polite to enquire which songs they 'love'?  Do the young Bakers adore his songs about slavery (Sail Away), child murder (In Germany Before the War) or bigotry (Short People and so many more), or do they just like the stuff from Toy Story?

It's unlikely that much of Dark Matter will get played much in the Baker household. There's the lengthy opener The Great Debate - which hilariously pitches believers against scientists. There's the satirical Putin, the heartbreaking Lost Without You and the bizarre true story about Sonny Boy Williamson whose identity and songbook were stolen by another blues performer after he died.  By this point Baker Jnr will be wondering where the follow up to You've Got a Friend in Me is?

Dark Matter is full of rich, orchestral arrangements that can sometimes overwhelm some of the slighter songs (On the Beach, It's a Jungle Out There).  Newman is, however, at his best on the quieter piano ballads Wandering Boy and the uncharacteristically sentimental She Chose Me.  

#29
Cigarettes After Sex
Cigarettes After Sex
(Partisan Records)

As their name suggests, the debut album by Texas based Cigarettes After Sex is an additive and quietly passionate affair.

Greg Gonzalez delivers his intimate and frequently indiscreet lyrics is a softly spoken post-coital manner. The band bring together dreamlike guitars and gentle washes of keyboards to create an ambient haze that reflects the tone of his candid diary-like songs.  

The yearning at the heart of songs like the opener K ('we had made love earlier that day with no strings attached...') and the lustful Sweet ('...watching the video you sent me of you lying in your red lingerie...), both show Gonzalez trying to make sense of his emotional predicament. Probably before lighting up another cigarette. 

Occasionally the lyrics are jarringly unsophisticated (Young and Dumb features the ghastly line 'you are the Patron Saint of sucking cock', gee, what a compliment!), that ruins the mood.  It's also a shame that their celebrated and soporific reinterpretation of REO Speedwagon's Keep on Loving You is not included. 

Mixing the tender and profane, Cigarettes after Sex have created a debut album that captures the minutiae of falling in and out of love. It's a seductive and revealing portrait.    

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Jason Lewis
UK Music Editor

Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

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