Song of the Day #2,929: ‘Wristband’ – Paul Simon

paul_simon_stranger_to_strangerAt the start of the year, if you’d told me I’d be more excited by new Rihanna and Ariana Grande albums than the newest Paul Simon release, I’d have called you crazy. But that’s the case.

Simon’s 13th solo studio release, Stranger to Stranger, comes five years after the late-career triumph So Beautiful Or So What. I was surprised to see that album came out way back in 2011. It still feels vital and fresh, and unfortunately this new release lives in its shadow.

I should point out that I seem to be alone in this opinion. Reviews of Stranger to Stranger have been extremely positive, with most critics praising the eclectic mix of sounds and instruments Simon utilizes.

To be sure, the record is well-produced. No Simon release since Graceland has failed to impress sonically. What I’m missing are the instantly hummable tunes, the melodies that camp out in my brain for weeks. What we get instead is a lot of noodling around on an acoustic guitar, a lot of half-spoken lyrics and songs that, at their best, sound like echoes of earlier, better tracks.

Maybe I just need more time with Stranger to Stranger. It clearly isn’t top-tier Simon (high bar!) but a few more careful listens might land it in Capeman territory.

At least the album has a clever use of the word “motherfucker,” so it has that going for it.

Here’s one of the best tracks, ‘Wristband,’ about a musician getting locked out of his own concert (among other things).

I stepped outside the backstage door
To breathe some nicotine
And maybe check my mailbox
See if I can read the screen
Then I heard a click
The stage door lock
I knew just what that meant
I’m gonna have to walk around the block
If I want to get in a…

Wristband, my man
You got to have a wristband
If you don’t have a wristband, my man
You don’t get through the door

Wristband, my man
You got to have a wristband
And if you don’t have a wristband
You don’t get through the door

I can’t explain it
I don’t know why my heart beats like a fist
When I meet some dude with an attitude
Saying, Hey, you can’t do that…or this
And the man was large
A well-dressed 6-foot-8
And he’s acting like St. Peter
Standing guard at the Pearly

Wristband, my man
You’ve got to have a wristband
If you don’t have a wristband
You don’t get through the door

And I said, Wristband?
I don’t need a wristband
My axe is on the bandstand
My band is on the floor

The riots started slowly
With the homeless and the lowly
Then they spread into the heartland
Towns that never get a wristband
Kids that can’t afford the cool brand
Whose anger is a shorthand
For you’ll never get a wristband
And if you don’t have a wristband
Then you can’t get through the door
No, you can’t get through the door
No, you can’t get through the door

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,929: ‘Wristband’ – Paul Simon

  1. Dana says:

    I’ve played this album a few times through now and find it to be quite good, though it is true that some songs are more accessible and memorable than others. Still, getting more excited about Ariana Grande’s record strongly suggests that you’ve swapped bodies with a teenager.😄

  2. Peg says:

    I just read recently that he announced his retirement 😦 I like the beat of this song but not much else

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