[Pic: Some poor kid gets the word “Surprise” tattooed across it’s face in the name of “art”]
Being a part-time Paul Simon fan, and having promised, in a previous life, a review of the Simon and Garfunkel concerts from back in 2004, I figure I should at least put podgy-sausage fingers to keyboard and expose the world to my opinions on something as lame as a new long-player by a 64-year-old New Yorker.
I will also expose you to ridiculously long sentences. Like the one above.
No-one could claim that any of Simon’s albums sound the same, and with Surprise he’s gone and surpassed – yes indeed, despite my previous concerns in entries passim – himself. Collaborating with Brian Eno (a man from round Ipswich way) has given this new album a sound which I never thought I’d experience. Paul Simon with some electronic big ambient beatz (although maybe that’s an oxymoron)? Gimme a break! But wait! Wait! It works goddammit, it fucking well works.
There is not a thing wrong with any of the new material on this album. Not one thing. The only weak link is the inclusion of Father and Daughter, a track which obviously just missed being on You’re the one and doesn’t fit the musical or overall narrative style of Surprise. For a guy as so obsessed with perfection from his work as Paul Simon, I find it a curious thing indeed. Still, the song is great. It just feels welded on in a “oh shite we’ve only got 40 minutes of material and really we need 45…” way.
The first three songs were co-written with “sonic landscape” artist Eno. And long may the collaboration last. All of them are, to be hackneyed in my so-called review, a surprise. When you know what’s coming, the layers of music, the rhythms, the revival of Rhymin’ Simon’s lyrical genius, there is so much to look forward to. Listen and experience the beauty of careful songcrafting at it’s finest.
Sure don’t feel like love starts off with an unmistakable Steve Gadd drum riff, and continues to give us a Paul Simon song which is filled, despite it’s apparent subject, with fun. Case in point is the “Yay!/Boo!” middle eight (Buz will correct me on the number of bars no doubt).
Wartime prayers. There will never be another Bridge over troubled water, especially not without Artie’s singing and the extra nigh-on thirty years. However this song is as close as you’ll get, and is one of the two most shiny examples of fabulousness this recording contains. And it’s got the Jesse Dixon Singers on it. You want more? Geez, I’ll get it fuckin’ diamond encrusted for you.
Beautiful would be a satire on the current trend of adopting kids from other countries, then. The protangonists having visited current “trendy” countries to build their own united nations of children.
I don’t believe. Just check it out. Get the words, listen.
Hmm. Methinks I should stop with the wine already. It’s not so much a review, more an entreaty for you to just buy the bloody album and enjoy it.
Another galaxy. Right, this song is the second piece of genius here and to my mind (and what a mind!) a companion piece to both Hearts and Bones and Graceland (as well as, I guess, Trailways Bus from the Capeman, but unless you’re a real fanboy, we’ll disregard it in this instance). Seriously, listen to all three and hear a story arc that spans from 1983 up to 2006. The production is blinding. Eno did a fine, fine job on this one.
Hear the bassline on Once upon a time there was an ocean as Simon considers that he was once “an ocean but now is a mountain range”. Nothing is different, but everything is changed. The track blends into That’s me with it’s melancholy and it’s life examination. It’s a two-for-one Paul Simon life examination at its best.
Hey, look, go get the album when it’s out in the UK on June 5th. I know I will (well I gotta have the US and the UK version haven’t I?). It’s here and it’s a shilling short of nine quid to you squire.