Paul Simon – Surprise (2006): Review


Produced by Paul Simon
Label – Warner Bros

The combination of a new Paul Simon album assisted by legendary king of ambient Brian Eno is indeed a surprise. But then Simon has been no stranger to taking a chance on the belief that his own song writing ability will carry a project that experiments with untried musicians and exotic soundscapes. 1986’s “Graceland” is a wonderful testament to an artist who could mould a mainstream set of songs with glorious African instrumentation and create a wholly unique recording. One supposes that taking on Eno is less of a risk, as his track record proves, and yet one feels that the combination seems rather awkward and on the whole the sonic landscapes created by the pair are forced, cumbersome and about 10 years too late.


It seems that Eno and Simon are attempting to create some kind of digitally artificial mask of mysticism over Simon’s tender and mostly intimate vocals. 90s machine like Drum ‘n Bass rhythms interrupt the flow on many of the songs, sucking the very life out of the melodies. It’s like an album full of those unnecessary long remix tracks you used to get on the back of 12” singles. There are a number of songs that escape the crippling rhythms; witty articulate musings encompassing Politics, Religion and love that return some semblance of quality to the proceedings. The opener “How Can You Live In The North East?” questions our spiritual existence and beliefs; it’s melancholic and thought provoking, with lines like “If the answer is infinite light, why do we sleep in the dark ?”. His considered lament to war is superbly executed on “Wartime Prayers”, originally articulated without a requirement to rant as he conveys his message, singing “People hungry for the voice of God hear lunatics and liars.” Another gem is the sweet, loving paternal closer “Father And Daughter”. A mixed bag then, some genuinely skilful intelligent songs muddied by an unnecessary artificial backdrop.

“Surprise”, although sparking with sharp wit and lyrical subtlety, is hampered by a production effort that lacks spontaneity. Would have been far more memorable with organic instrumentation and rhythms.


Track Listing
1.”How Can You Live in the Northeast?” – 3:42
2.”Everything About It Is a Love Song” – 3:57
3.”Outrageous” – 3:24
4.”Sure Don’t Feel like Love” – 3:57
5.”Wartime Prayers” – 4:49
6.”Beautiful” – 3:07
7.”I Don’t Believe” – 4:09
8.”Another Galaxy” – 5:22
9.”Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean” – 3:55
10.”That’s Me” – 4:43
11.”Father and Daughter” – 4:11

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