Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp review, 18: Facile Hollywood back-slappery

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Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London (Christie Goodwin)
Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London (Christie Goodwin)

Given the backlash afforded to Paul McCartney for featuring a video of Johnny Depp in his Glastonbury set – despite Depp winning his recent high-profile defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard – you might imagine it’s still a touch too soon for the sometime-Hollywood Vampires guitarist to be relaunching his music career. Yet here he is, crossing fretboards with ex-Yardbird Jeff Beck on the collaborative album that he famously missed the court ruling to tour. We can only presume that, having heard the record, Depp knew his music career was finished anyway, so what the hell.

It's hard to imagine the level of intoxication and/or self-delusion that convinces someone that a record this weak would be a grand comeback statement. It’s tough enough to find any coherent purpose to it, beyond facile Hollywood back-slappery. Three of the record’s 11 – eleven – incongruous covers, seemingly selected by lobbing darts at a Spotify genre cloud, involve Beck showcasing his sub-Dave Gilmour, cruise ship guitar work by playing the vocal lines on instrumental takes of Davy Spillane’s “Midnight Walker” and a couple of Beach Boys tunes.

When Depp gets involved things often, somehow, get worse. Dennis Wilson’s “Time” becomes a schmaltzy glower. An out-of-nowhere soul section (The Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”) plods by with Depp offering frail, soulless falsettos. And there should be laws against what they do to The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs”. Its lascivious menace is ground down into sexless Hollywood goth rock, which manages to be overly bombastic despite everyone involved sounding as though they’re actually living out the song’s wish to “sleep for a thousand years”.

The pair have sporadic successes. Depp’s melancholy take on The Everly Brothers’ “Let it Be Me” is genuinely touching. They emulate the ragged original of John Lennon’s “Isolation” fairly accurately. And Killing Joke’s “Death and Resurrection Show” is the album’s highlight, all meaty industrial tech-rock voiced by a post-apocalyptic mecha-Depp. Nobody’s here for any of that though. The entire album acts as superfluous jewellery box padding for Depp’s two original songs, which are of far more interest for the intrigue as to whether they might be about Heard than for their artistic merits.

“This is a Song For Miss Hedy Lamarr” – referencing the 1930s German actor who was “cancelled” over nude scenes she hadn’t approved – is plain awful, a lacklustre soft rock anthem-by-numbers that only serves to expose Depp’s kindergarten-level songwriting skills. He fares slightly better mumble-rapping like a down-at-heels Sunset drunk over the grimy clatter of “Sad Motherf***in’ Parade”, a much belated, very sweary answer to Peter Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt” from 1992. “If I had a dime it wouldn’t reach your hand,” Depp mutters darkly at an unnamed “bad luck b****”, admitting: “I’m raggedy I know, but I have no stain”. Twitter will make of that what Twitter will, but it would also be advised to seek significance in the barely conscious jazz bar cover of Janis Ian’s “Stars”. “People lust for fame,” Depp dribbles, half-heartedly, “Some of them are crowned, some of them are downed, some are lost and never found.” If Depp’s to be rediscovered, though, it sounds like it’ll be in movies.

“This is a Song For Miss Hedy Lamarr” – referencing the 1930s German actor who was “cancelled” over nude scenes she hadn’t approved – is plain awful, a lacklustre soft rock anthem-by-numbers that only serves to expose Depp’s kindergarten-level songwriting skills. He fares slightly better mumble-rapping like a down-at-heels Sunset drunk over the grimy clatter of “Sad Motherf***in’ Parade”, a much belated, very sweary answer to Peter Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt” from 1992. “If I had a dime it wouldn’t reach your hand,” Depp mutters darkly at an unnamed “bad luck b****”, admitting: “I’m raggedy I know, but I have no stain”. Twitter will make of that what Twitter will, but it would also be advised to seek significance in the barely conscious jazz bar cover of Janis Ian’s “Stars”. “People lust for fame,” Depp dribbles, half-heartedly, “Some of them are crowned, some of them are downed, some are lost and never found.” If Depp’s to be rediscovered, though, it sounds like it’ll be in movies.

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