Randy Newman’s mordant satirical powers seem to have atrophied over the years of scoring cute Pixar soundtracks (Toy Story, Cars, etc). His first album in nine years contains decent orchestral tear-jerkers, such as She Chose Me and On the Beach, a vignette of an ageing surf bum, but its lead items fall flat. Attempting to skewer both sides of the science-religion schism, The Great Debate ends up an incoherent, melody-free sprawl. Putin pokes way too gentle fun at Russia’s dark lord, and a dig at Donald Trump, What a Dick, didn’t even make the cut. Best is Newman’s tribute to bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson, a victim of posthumous identity theft.
Neil Spencer is a writer and an astrologer for The Observer