Alan Light's NY Times Article on Paul Simon has a provocative quote from Simon:
He says that although "Surprise" [Simon's new album] represents a return to Western rhythms and harmonies, its unconventional sonics and song structures are hardly the stuff of today's pop radio.
"It may be that it's just too abstract for a lot of people," he said. "It may be that, as with Brian[Eno]'s work, it's meant to speak to a specific group of listeners, and that group may not number in the millions. They might number in the thousands. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it, it just means that you have to accept that you're going to be talking to a smaller group of people."
Mr. Simon, who is married to and has three children with the singer Edie Brickell (she and the New Bohemians have an album due out in July[dude!]), expressed frustration that more of his peers haven't maintained their creative competitiveness and musical passion. He said that while he respected Neil Young, for example, he was not that excited by Mr. Young's newer work. He did offer admiration for the sheer perseverance of the Rolling Stones, though: "I don't think Mick and Keith ever liked each other any better than Artie and I did, but they show other bands that it can be done, that it's possible." "That's more interesting," he added, than watching Paul McCartney "go out and play Beatles songs."
Uh, what? On one hand, he holds his peers to the weighty pressures of "creative competetiveness and musical passion," but on the other he dismisses it for himself? Did Light juxtapose these comments on purpose, to highlight what jumps out at me as an insane contradiction?
On the subject of his examples: I sure hope he got that quote before Living With War came out. Prairie Wind is decidedly neutral, sure. I've heard people who've seen McCartney play recently make similar comments. And on the Stones, well, I just don't know how they do it. But in a KISS kind of way, not in a Bob Dylan kind of way. I know Dylan is an obvious example. What about Tony Bennett? Carole King? Pete Seeger? The Stones don't rock. Or, they rock in the way that Disneyland is magical – it's all kind of a willful put-on, due to societal influence, respect, and nostalgia.
I wonder what Simon's Eno-produced album sounds like, and how it stands up to his criticism of his peers. I'll check it out and get back to you.