Mark Ronson must be feeling a little isolated and embattled right now.
First he tells the NME that people are coming up to him in the street to call him a wanker, and then, to add insult to injury, even his muse Amy Winehouse has a pop. ("You're dead to me", she tweeted a week or so ago, before making a partial retraction.) Meanwhile, his protégé Daniel Merriweather has stepped out solo, and everyone from Eliza Doolittle to Tom Jones has lifted his trademark nouveau-vintage sound. They don't need him any more. The question is: do we?
The producer (and now singer's) third album doesn't answer that one conclusively, although the balance tilts towards the affirmative. This time around, Ronson has largely ditched the retro thing and aimed for something vaguely contemporary. This course of action is fraught with danger: one minute you're timeless, the next you're simply outdated.
For instance, opening track (and lead single) "Bang Bang Bang" sounds like a Pharrell/Neptunes cast-off from circa 2003. Indeed, much of Record Collection aims for the kind of Day-Glo electronic psych-pop executed with noticeably more panache by Damon and Danger Mouse on Gorillaz' Plastic Beach.
It is, to say the least, hit and miss. The world could, for example, live without Kyle Falconer, the idiot boy-child from the View, singing the line "I'm gonna ride my bike until I get home" (still dressed, one assumes, in the jeans he's been rebelliously wearing for four days in a row).
And dear old Boy George seems a little wasted (no, not in that sense) duetting with Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt on "Somebody to Love Me". In the plus column, getting Ghostface Killah to rap over the theme for some imaginary spaghetti western ("Lose It", co-written with Jonathan Pierce of the Drums) is an inspired choice. The title track (co-written with the drummer from the Kaiser Chiefs) is hilarious, getting a self-aware Simon Le Bon to sing the chorus to a song about a washed-up superstar bragging about his increasingly meagre claims to a bling-bling lifestyle. ("I drive round cities in a chariot/ I get preferential treatment at the Marriott...")
Ex-Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall excels on her two tracks, and there's something very Profumo Affair about hearing the words "I've done some dirty deeds..." in her elegantly bored tones. Best of all, however, is the mangled future-soul of the D'Angelo collaboration "Glass Mountain Trust", although it's rivalled by three instrumentals: the space-age, minute-long "Selector", freakbeat interlude "Missing Words", and "Circuit Breaker", which appears to blend the Smiths' "Oscillate Wildly" with John Barry's Bond theme.
Maybe that's a pointer to the future for Ronson. Never mind Winehouse or Merriweather: next time, lock him in a studio with Quentin Tarantino.
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