Friday, November 21, 2008

Paul Simon and Integration Vs. Visitation


I've been having a hard time writing about Paul Simon's self-titled record. It's something that just snuck up on me. But not in a fast sneak, in a very slow and deliberate sneak. Where it had been nuzzled up in my lap for months and months, and I never noticed. It has slowly become one of my favorite albums. Which is an odd thing, because I'm not the hugest Paul Simon fan. I think he lost the wheel after a few albums into his solo career. I don't like Graceland, I'm willing to give it another couple of chances, I just think his songs are best when they have some space for them to move their elbows around. Graceland is just too busy and cluttered. I don't know, maybe not, I'm working on it. 

Paul Simon is a horse of a different color, though. It's relaxed, confident vibe make it perfect for just about any time. Perfect for Sunday morning's breakfast, late late late Friday night's "just this one last record", weekday afternoon's laying around. The songs are well built, the melodies inbed themselves deep in your humming veins and your whistling capillaries. There something about a song like "Peace Like A River" that is just so open to interpretation. In Simon's hands it's the sound of being content, maybe. He's still gonna be up for a while. Is that an invitation, or a threat? Spoon have recently tackled this song and made the "I'm gonna be up for a while" line sound more threatening, especially when they start pounding away at their instruments after each little part. 

As I've had some time to think about it, taking a little lunch break in the middle of writing this, my problem with Graceland might be the impression I've always had about it being a particularly egregious example of the 1980's musical colonialism. Some bands, well, one band, the Talking Heads, managed to pull this off integrating the music of other cultures into their music while maintaining their prevailing artistic themes. On Graceland Paul Simon sounds more like a musical tourist. Paul Simon songs with South African music attached.  (Some bands since have been more adept at achieving a positive balance of integration versus visitation, Sea And Cake and Vampire Weekend being two of the best examples.)

41 comments:

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