Something Else! sneak peek: Paul Simon, "The Afterlife" (2011)

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Photo by Mark Seliger

by Nick DeRiso

“The Afterlife,” featured on Paul Simon’s forthcoming album So Beautiful or So What, is pulsing and sinewy — almost like a lost track from Graceland. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

See, Simon has said the premise of this new recording was to get away from the rhythmic focus he’d had since that late 1980s smash, to focus more on singer-songwriterly guitar-based tracks. And he certainly did that on the advance cut “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” a Yuletide-themed tune released last November that shares the chirpy structure of Simon’s early 1970s hits.

“Afterlife,” though, is another story. Driven along by a cool rhythm effect — Simon filled a snare drum with pebbles, then shook it — and the serpintine musings of Cameroon guitarist Vincent Nguini, Simon tells a funny tale of a newly departed sap trying to talk his way past the pearly gates.

This guy finds out the next world is not all that much different than this one. There’s a girl who won’t give him the time of day, and a tedium familiar to anyone who’s tried to get something done at a government office: “You have to fill out a form first,” the 69-year-old Simon sings, over a looping signature by drummer Jim Oblon, “and then you’re waiting in line.”

So Beautiful or So What, Simon’s first studio album since 2006’s Surprise, is due on April 12. Producer Phil Ramone, who helped Simon to an album of the year Grammy in 1976 for Still Crazy After All These Years, returns to helm this project.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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