Review Summary: Cereal boxes and baseball caps"Steatopygias. It means 'rump,' so whenever a fat-ass walks in the room...well, someone like you...you'd say, 'Well, Cal, you're certainly steatopygias.' It's better than fat-ass because you and anyone else wouldn't know what the *** I'm talkin' about."
In his book "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe," between thanking Geoffrey Perkins “for achieving the improbable” and Jacqui Graham “for food in adversity,” author Douglas Adams offers thanks “to the Paul Simon album One Trick Pony
which I played incessantly while writing this book. Five years is far too long.” Looking back almost 35 years later, Adams’ dedication to One Trick Pony
remains one of a few odd miscellanies regarding Paul Simon’s most forgotten album. Adams had good reason to state that “five years is far too long.” After all, it had been that long since Simon’s last full studio release: the Grammy award winning Still Crazy After All These Years
, and five years was the longest time it had taken Simon during his entire career to record and release a new album of material. The layover since Still Crazy
had only been marked with the outstanding single “Slip Slidin’ Away” and a greatest hits release, and Simon soon found himself slowly fading out of mainstream consciousness. In 1975, Simon left the world of music at the height of his popularity, but by 1980, the entire music business had dramatically changed. The disco craze had come and gone, and Simon ultimately found himself at a trough in his career - not because of a slip in the quality of his material, but simply because of his overall absence, leaving many of his fans wondering where he had gone.
One Trick Pony
was supposed to be the start of a great comeback for Simon. It was released alongside the movie of the same name, which portrayed Simon in a semi-autobiographical role as a washed-up, baseball-cap wearing folk singer who was stuck as an opening act for more popular punk-rock bands of the time. The plot of the movie revolves around Simon (in the movie, Jonah) dealing with pressure from his record label to be more mainstream, touring the countryside with his band in a tight van, and trying to maintain a relationship with his son. Needless to say, Paul Simon was never meant to be an actor. Apart from a hilarious scene where Simon punches a box of cereal in frustration and a more heartwarming moment where he plays baseball with his son in the park, the movie mostly drags for the better part for its 98 minute running time, due in large part to its soundtrack. Both the movie and the album start off well with “Late in the Evening,” a song that rekindles memories of some of the great upbeat Simon songs of the previous decade like “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” “Kodachrome,” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” With its complex arrangement of horns, vocal harmonization, clanking drums and a funky bass line, “Late in the Evening” marked Simon’s commercial return to success (despite its ‘risqué’ drug reference) not only commercially, but also as a live fan favorite. Unfortunately, that is as good as it gets on One Trick Pony, as many of the other tracks are not nearly as exciting as the opener. Most of the cuts on here ride the line between mellow and unbelievably depressing and/or boring, including “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns,” “Jonah,” “God Bless the Absentee,” “Long, Long Day” and “Nobody,” which, to a zoned out listener, all zoom by without any distinctive flavor or hardly any redeeming qualities. To add to the soundtrack vibe that the album was supposed to maintain, there are two tracks that were recorded live, including the mediocre title track and the ragged and unpolished “Ace in the Hole,” the latter showcasing vocals by keyboardist Richard Tee, who shares the lead with Simon.
Ultimately, One Trick Pony
fails as both a soundtrack album and as a standalone release because of the overwhelmingly boring atmosphere of the album as a whole. Save for “Late in the Evening,” Pony
lacks the high standard of quality that all of Paul Simon’s releases had maintained so vehemently up to that point. Perhaps it was the long amount of time that he took off after being successful for so long, or maybe it was the changing scene of popular changing from being singer-songwriter oriented to more varying genres - it is outrageously clear that Paul Simon was completely lost in his own head with this release, creating songs that were neither poetic nor poppy, and something that, save for Douglas Adams, no one had any interest in hearing.