As well as a host of his famous buddies, his persecution complex in pop form is full of surprises - what's to hate?
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of paranoia in pop music. Paranoia, with its heightened focus, self-lacerating application of stringent standards of personal excellence, and (often) attendant pharmaceutical intake, has given rise to some great albums. Off the top of the head, you could cite [b]Abba’s ‘The Visitors’[/b] (imminent double-divorce paranoia), [b]Talk Talk’s ‘The Colour Of Spring’[/b] and [b]ABC’s ‘Beauty Stab’[/b] (sudden rejection of fame paranoia), [b]Public Enemy’s ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’[/b] (‘The Government is watching us’ paranoia), [b]Cypress Hill[/b]’s first two albums (weed) and [b]‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’[/b] (gak).
One wonders, though, what [a]Mark Ronson[/a], the man with the keys to the kingdom, has to be paranoid about. After his recent angst enema in these very pages, even the hardest-hearted Smiths fan should have been left wanting to throw a matronly arm around his shoulders and assure him that it doesn’t matter that he’s minted because his stepdad was in [b]Foreigner[/b], it’s actually quite cool. Nobody cares how well-connected you are now that you seem to have grasped that – on record at least – [a]Ghostface Killah[/a] > [a]Lily Allen[/a]. Heck, even [b]‘Version’[/b] wasn’t THAT bad. OK, you let [a]Robbie Williams[/a] heave a giant steaming poop all over [b]‘The Only One I Know’[/b], but we all make mistakes.
Don’t beat yourself up!
But, of course, we can’t tell [a]Mark Ronson[/a] – inward-looking, auto-despising, self-Googling, paranoid [a]Mark Ronson[/a] – how he should be feeling about his life and how the world perceives it any more than he can bitch to us about deadlines and word counts.
All we can do is kick back and enjoy the sound of one man fretting.
Whereas [b]‘Version’[/b] was vaguely ridiculous in its ‘anyone who is anyone is here’ cast of thousands, this time Ronson has assembled an intriguingly motley band of indie types ([b]Kyle Falconer[/b] from [a]The View[/a] and ex-[a]Pipette[/a] [b]Rose Elinor Dougall[/b] contribute vocals, and there are writer credits for [b]Jonathan Pierce[/b] from [a]The Drums[/a], [b]Jake Shears[/b], [b]Dave McCabe[/b] of [a]The Zutons[/a], [b]Kai[/b] [a]Mystery Jets[/a] and [b]Nick[/b] from [a]Kaiser Chiefs[/a]), hip-hoppers (notably [a]Ghostface Killah[/a] and [a]Q-Tip[/a] – the world can do without [a]Spank Rock[/a] and [a]Theophilus London[/a], whose contribution on [b]‘Hey Boy’[/b] only goes to prove that he could walk into a sleepy Suffolk village pub and still not be confident of being the best rapper in the house) and ’80s anachronisms ([b]Simon Le Bon[/b] and [b]Boy George[/b]).
The end result, as one might expect, is a much more intimate and human (not to mention quite odd) record, with a good half-dozen slabs of high-efficiency, skewed pop with a late-’80s hip-hop undertow, and not a Stax-ish horn to be found anywhere. [b]‘Bang Bang Bang’[/b] you will already know, and to be honest there’s nothing else quite as good as that. There are pop jollies, though, to be found on the immeasurably summery [b]‘The Bike Song’[/b], Falconer’s contribution, and the unashamedly cheesy electro-pop of [b]‘You Gave Me Nothing’[/b], which is surprisingly not the [b]Jake Shears[/b] contribution given that it is positively dripping with the flavour of what [a]Scissor Sisters[/a] can be when they are not trying to be funny. Also scoring high are the bustling miniature synth epic of [b]‘Glass Mountain Trust’[/b], which features the honeyed vocals of D’Angelo and at no point gives the listener a clue as to what he is singing about or what a Glass Mountain Trust might be, and top of the shop, the quite remarkable glacial robo-funk of the title track (meaning that the standout track, [b]‘Bang Bang Bang’[/b] aside, is the one with [b]Simon Le Bon[/b] on it. Which is not something you read in NME every day).
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And so paranoia produces, if not a great album, a respectable transition from love-him-or-
hate-him brass-toting berk into a genuine, bona fide pop maverick. And so what we’re basically trying to say is that, well, Mark Ronson, you can stop beating yourself up now. You’re alright by us.