SuperHeavy: SuperHeavy

Giants of diverse genres team up to tear up the rulebook.

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The only truly Stones-like song here, the riffing, Jagger-written I Can’t Take It No More, in which Sir Mick complains about politicians, begins with Joss Stone yodelling: ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, what the fuck is going on?’ And it’s a fair question.

Never mind Loutallica, this must be the weirdest ‘supergroup’ since Cliff and the Young Ones. Five big names, four of them vocalists, compete to show us how versatile they are and what capers they enjoy when hanging in Jamaica or LA.

Jagger, gyrating gamely, offers (unfortunately, given Keith Richards’s recent divulgences) to show us his ‘little bag of tricks’. Stone, taking time out from nearly being kidnapped, does her best Merry Clayton impressions while looking young and hot so that Mick looks even more like a face-off between Project Nim and Humbert Humbert. Damian Marley (with his rhythm section) brings the reggae-reggae sauce, while AR Rahman, with bursts of filmic strings, broadens the already pretty broad target demographic. And it’s all stuck together by – who else – Dave Stewart, whose recurring, Zelig-like niche as the go-to collaborator for ageing icons can only be explained by a stash of incriminating negatives.

The positives are that SuperHeavy – the ‘band’, the album – isn’t a complete debacle and is often rather fun. It’s undeniably ridiculous, with the stars shouting across each other and a tendency to over-egg the rub-a-dub with a naivety that should have left the building with the 1976 Paul Nicholas classic Reggae Like It Used To Be. Marley Jr seems so startled that everyone involved wants to be his dad that he drops some cringe-inducing couplets (rhyming ‘preposterous’ with ‘a lot of lust’).

But as well as giggles there are grooves. Stewart is nothing if not competent, and in a way the lunacy of the whole affair gives it the dollop of personality his productions usually lack. Jagger, clearly thrilled by inspiring Cher Lloyd and liberated from the notional day job, has a blast, while Stone sounds like she’s having a stream of extremely enjoyable orgasms.

Mick pulls out his best voodoo-doctor mannerisms on Miracle Worker and, when breathing space is allowed, his nasal sneer contrasts well with Stone’s honey-dripper tropes. Satyameva Jayathe echoes State Of Independence. When the gang ease up for the dryly paced One Day One Night and the countrified Never Gonna Change (rebooted Far Away Eyes stylings), the individuals’ mad skills come forth.

Frequently this is an album of ghastly reggae fusion, but sheer daftness and gusto keep it airborne.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.