Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Pleasant Surprise

Brian Eno is fast becoming my favorite Producer For The Moment. I recently discovered Surprise, his 2006 collaboration with the great Paul Simon (another one of my singer-songwriter heroes), and dang it, just like Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, his collaboration with David Byrne, I’m impressed. And pleasantly surprised: these days it’s becoming rare for me to discover an album that I can play from beginning to end without tuning out or skipping tracks.

Simon is know for his forays into different musical territories, and after he tackled world music it didn’t seem out of character for him to turn his restless attention to the electronic/sound textures of Eno. But it’s not as if Paul Simon was Eno-nized, nor the other way around. Simon’s songwriting is still very much his own, and the melodies he creates are still very much what you expect from him (though this time he’s shifted back to crafty pop). But filter this through Eno’s soundscapes and sensibilities, and you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a magical common ground.

In an interview, Simon says that theirs wasn’t an unlikely collaboration: “We had a lot in common. One of the things that we’re both interested in is attention span. At what point have you heard enough repetition in a song that you’re no longer enjoying it? Because Brian thinks about space and length, he had the same intuition about theme and variation.”

And it’s no surprise that the 11 songs on this album, all but one clocking in between 3 to 4 minutes, are mini-musical journeys that take you through surprising twists and turns. The shifts are subtle and sly, yet they manage to—here’s that word again—surprise. What an aptly titled album.

Simon’s lyrics are often obtuse meanderings, but written and sung with clarity and simplicity; that artistic tension is what makes his songs deserve several listening. Eno manages to wrap this all up with sounds that take unexpected shifts and tones that delight and keep your ears on their toes.

Surprise is an album I’ll be listening to again and again for the next few days.

1 comment:

Rhett said...

Thank you for your recommendation of this. I discovered Brian Eno via your blog and have been a fan since. Sige, I'll try to get a copy of Surprise..