So first things first. We've no particular beef with the Pope. Indeed, us and the pontiff: we cool. His courageous and progressive stance on gay rights ("who am I to judge?"), his generous advocacy of refugees, his (genuinely inspirational) Twitter feed.
You probably know already how, immediately after the cardinals did their whole white-smoke-from-the-chimneys initiation ceremony thing, he personally phoned a Buenos Aires newsagent to cancel his newspaper delivery. While we're at it, as a young man he worked a stint as a nightclub bouncer. And owned a Harley Davidson. Which, by the way, he later sold, donating every penny of the proceeds to a soup kitchen. Yeah – quite a guy.
But should he be in the business of dropping albums? And not just happy-clappy mail order bullshit only dessicated maiden aunts would ever give the time of day to. An actual, proper, PR-company-plugged, chart release album? No. No he shouldn't.
We guess the purpose of this kind of record is to galvanise the faithful and win over cynical millennials - to spread the Good News of salvation and remind his wayward flock of the coming judgement. Sadly, it falls short.
Partly because it's so painfully eager to please. Sonorous sermons that really should hit home - delivered in an unseasoned multilingual mishmash of tongues (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, English) - are unflattered by the ersatz backdrop of cheesy latin pop, dire orchestral muzak and (heavens preserve us) Meat Loaf-esque '70s prog.
What's most infuriating is that it could have been awesome. Public Service Broadcasting expertly seized the zeitgeist, cutting and pasting spoken-word curios over half-decent beats. Imagine material of this dimension and heft - salvation, suffering, the clash of good and evil - handled by a solid musical director. Say, Trent Reznor, or a really kick ass classical pianist. Fuck it, why not let Kanye have a go. Hackles would be raised. The impermanence of this mortal realm brought devastatingly home. Ancient wisdom remade anew.
It's just as well he's celibate, as the cringey 'world music' accompaniment here – Casio-demo grooves, panpipes and latin guitar (until the strings cut in - that's when you know A Profound Statement is being made) – is hardly likely to have groupies hanging out in St Peter's Square, hungry for a papal poke.
He should have gone full-2015 and got a guest vocalist in to spit sixteen bars. But in the end all we have is a tired, watered-down anachronism. A bit like the Pope himself, sad to say.
Words: Andy Hill
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