...it takes a little time to get used to the sound of the man who wrote 'The Boxer'...
Chris Jones 2006-05-24
The surprises on Paul Simon's new album are small, but still worthwhile. Teaming up with everyone's favourite boffin, Brian Eno, may seem slightly odd. That is until you remember that Simon made his name with songs that were shot through with intellectual detachment and displayed a mind preoccupied with far more than the standard 60s folkie fare (songs about Frank Lloyd Wright anyone?). And indeed, it seems as though the pairing is an easy match, with Eno's 'sonic landscapes' tweaking Simon's muse up with sublime ambiences and 21st century rhythms as well as their obvious shared love of an Afrocentric vibe.
Belying his voice - which sounds as fresh and angelic as it did in 1965 - the songs concern themselves withage, family and beauty; all set in the socio-political landscape of a post-Bush USA (naturally). While it takes a little time to get used to the sound of the man who wrote "The Boxer" singing over a drum and bass beat, the end results (bolstered with guest spots from luminaries such as Herbie Hancock and Bill Frisell) are both beautiful and credible.
The only exception is the Oscar-nominated final track, "Father And Daughter", which pre-dates the Eno sessions (coming from the soundtrack of The Wild Thornberrys Movie) which, while lovely, jars with the sleeker textures of the rest of the album. But the fact is that Surprise is Simon's best work for aeons.