Graceland: The Remixes
Sony Music Cmg
Paul Simon approved this. He’s also approved far too many live albums, Simon & Garfunkel reunions and around 87 unnecessary Greatest Hits compilations. But let’s just be clear, those other mild transgressions are what happens when a gifted songwriter receives far too many orders and offers across the desk. You make a few mistakes. One minute you’re recording an experimental album with Brian Eno next minute you’re in Japan watching Art Garfunkel ruin some of your best material, no longer able to sing. It’s always a slippery slope when you’re standing right at the top.
But this, this is fucking criminal. This is murder regardless of whether it ever makes it onto the dancefloor.
To give your work over to these animals, these unfeeling bastards, is to simply say “I’m retired: Go fuck yourselves!”
For all the controversy surrounding Graceland back in the day – and we must remember that Paul Simon was a cunt to Los Lobos, was a cunt about Apartheid, and was a cunt to several of the African musicians along the way – the resulting album was (and is) a pop masterpiece; one that lives and breathes due to its rhythms, the foundation. Sure, there are these curious, wonderful little short-stories from the pen of a mercurial master. But it’s the marriage of those upbeat songs in a forlorn tone from the man with the Sad Sam eyes and those supple, surprising grooves.
So, here instead we have an Urban Outfitters soundtrack, the album cover alone is guilty of cultural appropriation, looking like it was stitched up during a Sunday afternoon craft hang, over a few chardonnays before Kwanzaa – The African shop shut its doors for good.
But each DJ/remixer/producer seems to run at these songs in the same demented fashion – as if hurling their gift-shop axe at the tune and screaming, “remove the rhythm track, take away the magic!”
The voodoo curse first announces itself with a version of Homeless where the a capella is placed inside a dreadful, windswept and completely uninteresting downbeat trance vamp thanks to that complete shithead Joris Voorn. Awful.
Next up Joyce Muniz, a total dickwad if ever there was one, takes Gumboots and stomps it down inside the sort of house pastiche Everything But The Girl was taking for a twirl some quarter of a century ago.
Sharam Tayebi is an Iraian-born American techno and house DJ and producer. Now Wikipedia told me that. So let me tell you that he is, based entirely on the evidence of his murky-moody burial of the banger I Know What I know, also a complete and utter cunt.
Paul Oakenfold got bored further ruining U2 songs a while back but never tired of the pay. He removed his head from Ibiza’s arse just long enough to vomit up the lazy little shimmery groove that is draped over Crazy Love, Vol. II. The song’s tension removed, its energy sapped, its joy swallowed. Fuck Paul Oakenfold.
Ricky Ahmed takes disco, techno, funk, electro and hip-hop for a walk and intentionally gets all the leads tangled. Here he is responsible for removing the accordion and drums from the original of The Boy In The Bubble and instead trapping all the air inside a bubble of electro-synth silliness. This makes him one of the worst people to ever live.
Groove Armada is in charge of You Can Call Me Al, and so it’s a meta-irony that the first proper lyric we hear is “I want a shot at redemption”. They deserve to be shot for what they’ve done here. That’s the only possible redemption. These jerks have killed this song dead.
Will there be a Burning Man festival tent set up exclusively to play this album on a 36-hour loop? Probably. If so I’d prepared to stand under those skies for as long as it took to get a shot at Rick Pinder and DJOKO for their handclapping euro-trash remake of Under African Skies. They are starting World War IV with this shit.
The title track’s inventive rhythm track and evocative lyrics are gone. Well, actually the lyrics are still there. But the melodic and rhythmic overwrite is like a musical vasectomy. It renders the song neutered – “thanks” must go to MK & KC Lights. And by “thanks” I mean a singing telegram delivered by firing squad.
Gui Boratto’s Brazilian heritage made for some nice little ditties on the Kompakt label once upon a time. That does not give him the right to take That Was Your Mother for a walk down a faux-funk highway where party-sax synth-lines make a mockery of the original’s Lafayette bounce.
This truly is the album made for a Facebook and Twitter age. No history, only what’s right in front of you. Some savage might hear this and decide they suddenly like Paul Simon. I’ve only just invented such a type in my head and already I hate them with the loathing of a four-day hangover.
Thievery Corporation is called on to do something/anything with Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. They have no plan, but for a slinky bassline. The same one they’ve been trotting out across two decades now. This duo’s diminishing returns game perfectly acceptable in the context of their own career – a warm bath of music that almost encouraged people to hold their own head under. But to simply take Simon’s vocal and dunk it in here like a stale biscuit in a luke-warm cupper, well it simply reminds you that these two jerks are horrible, horrible people. They deserve to be beaten with horsewhips in time to their own languid, slow-groove, overly-long remixes.
Photek has All Around The World or The Myth of Fingerprints on his watch. And he decides to do the old Aphex Twin trick, presumably, of simply reaching into a barrel of tapes featuring previously discarded ideas. He takes Paul Simon’s vocal and drapes it over his own renegade snares and adds a treated vocal that sounds like Peter Gabriel with a cold. It is even more horrible than I’ve tried to make it sound.
We opened with Homeless – which is the state all of these producers belong to be in after the release of this album. And so we end with it too. This time the Ladysmith Black Mambazo intro is reinstated. But it’s merely a coda. Some fake-euphoria chords are ramrodded beneath it. The best thing about it? The best thing about the album? This track is just one-minute long.
The rest of this hour-long hell-ride is like being stuck in a lift with a person you ignored all the way through school. They know you. You know them. You never liked each other. You never hated each other. But they’ve just decided that now’s the time to take a selfie with you for their Instagram feed. You know, to inanely laugh at the futility of the situation. Here you both are, 30 years later in a lift. Stuck. This is the most you’ve ever talked. And you’re still not actually saying anything. You agree, with a shrug, to the photo. And they smile and lick the side of your face and just as you are sure things couldn’t get any worse, they let out an enormous fart. The phone in the lift rings and the repairman tells you he’s stuck in traffic and will be two hours.
The person with the phone and the fart and the failed attempt at reconnecting wants, you guessed it, a shot at redemption.
You take the phone receiver from its cradle and you start to hit. You cannot stop. There’s blood spatter on your lips. But it’s good to finally feel something. Anything. The Paul Simon Graceland Remixes album continues to play. The repairman will find you in 90 minutes with the cord tied around your neck, your tongue hanging out. And he’ll have blood and spit and shit and piss – never diamonds – on the soles of his shoes.
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