Paul Simon, ‘Rewrite’ – Song Review
Paul Simon's formula for making music, based on his new single 'Rewrite,' hasn't changed much in the days since Simon and Garfunkel's breakup. First, write a lyric that's much darker than the melody would have you believe. Second, find the strangest instruments available. And finally, record said lyrics in a way that's never been done by anyone not named Paul Simon.
OK, that last step may be a stretch, but this 'Rewrite' is an original and if it works on pop-radio it will stand out like a wildebeest at the Starbuck's. A friendly wildebeest, that never bullies the barista ... and maybe buys you a few mini-cupcakes because he understands you're putting up with his offensive odor.
"I’ve been working on my rewrite, that’s right / I’m gonna change the ending / Gonna throw away my title / And toss it in the trash," Simon sings during the chorus that begins the song. The first verse is poignant and ironic over the peppy, rootsy beat of the song:
"Everybody says the old guy working at the carwash / Hasn’t got a brain cell left since Vietnam / But I say help me, help me, help me, help me Thank you! / I’d no idea / That you were there." While the chorus focuses on making life mistakes right, the verses come steeped in pain and suffering.
"I’ll eliminate the pages / Where the father has a breakdown / And he has to leave the family / But he really meant no harm / Gonna substitute a car chase / And a race across the rooftops / When the father saves the children / And he holds them in his arms."
'Rewrite' features a 12-stringed kora and a bass djembe. African instruments are no stranger to Simon's music, but an actual wildebeest might be. The singer admits he added the animal's grunt to the end of certain notes. It's faint, so you'll really have to work to hear it. And, of course, you'd have to know what a wildebeest sounds like.
This may not be the song that has America blowing up radio station request lines, but it's artistically superior to most rock music without seeming pompous (although Simon is showing off by including the wildebeest). It's right in line with what Paul Simon fans expect. Even at age 69 he's still a reliable songwriter even if he's no longer a hitmaker.