Paul Simon, “Another Galaxy” from Surprise (2006): One Track Mind

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You could be forgiven if you thought a collaboration between folk-rocker Paul Simon and arty outsider Brian Eno would never work. Those perfectly justifiable doubts made the sweeping successes of Surprise, and this standout track, all the more, well, surprising.

Even years later, it still is, really. Listening to “Another Galaxy,” there remain these jolting moments of pure musical delight as Simon and Eno create a shivering electronic bed of music, overlaid with an otherworldly, echoing guitar and vocal.

Perspective has made clear that these two had more in common than their one-line bios would indicate: There was Paul Simon’s interest in exotic rhythms and textures (beginning perhaps with “Cecelia,” and finding its popular zenith with the Graceland project in 1986), something that was mirrored in Brian Eno’s work with the Talking Heads and more recent projects like Nerve Net and, more recently, Small Craft on a Milk Sea.

Eno has, of course, had a concurrent career — away from his adventuresome ambient noodlings — in pop music, from Roxy Music to U2 to John Cale to James. As such, they found common ground on Surprise (released on May 9, 2006) in general, and songs like “Another Galaxy” in particular. The work, in fact, came in rushes so intense that they could only collaborate in week-long increments. In all, Surprise was recorded over 20 days spread out across two years.

It was worth the effort, since the results ended up as the perfect amalgam of their two sensibilities — at once singer-songwriterly, but also sonically broader than anything Paul Simon had yet done.

Brian Eno’s electronic addendums tend to jump out more dramatically, coming as they do within the familiar framework of Paul Simon’s world-weary mutterings. Whereas Simon’s previous effort You’re The One sometimes seemed too softened by middle age, here the sentiments run more fluidly between the comfy dreamscape of recollection and the angular complaints that accompany mature acceptance.

Simon was rewarded with his highest charting album, both in American and the UK, since Rhythm of the Saints 15 years before — and certainly, then as now, one of his most interesting moments.

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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