Underrated Album: Madeline Kenney on Paul Simon’s “One-Trick Pony”

"I find reliable comfort in unabashedly cheesy music."

Oct 05, 2018 By Madeline Kenney Web Exclusive
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Madeline Kenney released her sophomore album, Perfect Shapes, today via Carpark. In this guest post for us, she writes about one of her personal favorite albums, an album she considers underrated, Paul Simon's 1980 album One-Trick Pony.

Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes produced Perfect Shapes, apart from "Overhead," which was produced by Ben Sloan instead of Wasner. Previously Kenney shared a video for Perfect Shapes' first single, "Cut Me Off" (which was our #1 Song of the Week), as well as a creepy self-directed video for another new song from the album, "Overhead" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), a lyric video for "Bad Idea" (which made our Songs of the Week list as well), and the audio for "Perfect Shapes." Perfect Shapes was recorded in Durham, NC in January 2018, just five months after the release of her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, which came out in September 2017 via Company and was produced by Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bear.

Read on as Kenney writes about how one person's guilty pleasure is another person's plain old pleasure.

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I need you to get over your aversion to corny music. Yeah, you who rolls your eyes and changes the station when the nation's Queen of Sappy Love Songs, Delilah, dedicates a spin of "Nick of Time" to "whoever's on your heart tonight." Who are you trying to impress anyway? Do you think the Tinder generation gives two swipes about your fake dismissal of late era Phil Collins? You may as well take a cool dip into those murky-reverb-laden waters. Throw away your vanity, boys, and jump in-the water, or in this case, cheese, is fine.

I find reliable comfort in unabashedly cheesy music; early '90s Bonnie Raitt? Can't get enough. John Waite's duet-years? Yes, give it to me, I want it. If it were socially acceptable, I'd drape myself in sheet music for only the bridges to James Taylor songs. Corny music lays it on thick and doesn't apologize, balking at restraint and celebrating its own excess. It distills your heartache into a walkdown and an absurdly high-in-the-mix sax solo.

I'm sad to say that I'm usually lonely in my level of cheese-factor enjoyment. Coolness is still very essential to our culture's consumption of media, and its main attribute is aloofness. Perhaps it's easier to protect your heart when you act like you don't care...but that's no way to live at all.

All this being said, I am here to help you. I want to help you. And I have the matzo-ball soup for the millenial soul: Paul Simon's arguably underappreciated 1980 release, One-Trick Pony. It's a gentle introduction to tasteful, palatable schmaltz-a sentimental awakening for those caught up in the world of cool or worried that they've turned out just like their mother.

One-Trick Pony was a studio album released alongside a movie of the same name, starring our hero, Simon himself. Don't confuse it for a soundtrack, however-the album versions of the songs are different than those in the film. I'll give you permission to skip the film in favor of the record, as long as you promise to pay close attention. Lay on the floor and let the nylon-string solo of "How The Heart Approaches What it Yearns" wash over you, while you picture a volvo creeping down a wet street and a phonebooth returning a dime (okay, maybe watch the film if you don't know what that looks like).

The major single on the record, "Late In the Evening," will be recognizable to most, and is just a perfect banger, full stop. Percussion fit to kill. Halfway through the record "Oh, Marion" starts off with this kinda phoned-in funk vibe, and a chorus-y organ that'll almost mislead you from how truly heartbreakingly brilliant this song is. As the key change in the chorus slides into home, it delivers the most delicious melodic punch to the gut paired with the lament "The only time that love is an easy game/is when two of the people are playing." Destroy me again, Paul. I live for it.

Okay, buckle in, we're getting into juicy territory with tracks like "That's Why God Made the Movies" (a sonic ice pick for the cold-hearted) and "Nobody." If you're still laying on the floor when the latter oozes into soft focus, prepare to start subtly spinning when Simon's famously refined wordplay turns melancholy lamentation into a bonafide lovesong. "Nobody, nobody, nobody....but you." Are you still with me? And I bet you thought you hated that guitar tone at first. Context is key.

I'm skipping over a few tracks that don't really do it for me, but hey, it wouldn't be an underrated album if every song was a hit-you have to disappear to come back, as they say. I would like, however, to pay my respects to the last track on the record, "Long Long Day." I bought this album in highschool when I was trying to complete my Paul Simon vinyl collection (I had very few friends). I was, and still am, learning what it means to sing lyrics along to a song versus have a song wrap its melodic arms around its own meaning and let the chords do the heavy lifting. In "Long Long Day," Simon manages to say little in words and tremendously much in melody-it has a tender vulnerability so universally felt that just by writing about it I'm doing it a reductive disservice. So, I hope the floor is still comfortable for you. Roll over, sigh deeply, feel less alone:

It's been a long, long day

I sure could use a friend

Don't know what else to say

I hate to abuse an old cliche

But it's been a long, long day

So what if you're just like your mother? You have a lot to thank her for. You might as well thank her for good taste while you're at it.

P.S. Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time is genius perfection and its use as sappy imagery here was just to prove a point. Go listen to that album too. Love you, Mom.

www.madelinekenney.bandcamp.com

www.perfectshapes.club

 

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.



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