It's still a little hard to get used to the idea of Paul Simon music as beat music, but that's exactly what "Saints" is--his usual elliptical reveries and sad-mouthed regrets having been built this time from the ground up on a rock bottom of complex Brazilian rhythms. And they do kick.
The very first song, "The Obvious Child," opens with a bold, cadence-like phalanx of drums, and though the meters get smoother and quieter over the course of the album, they never really let up. It's driving stuff that just might make you get up and dance.
Or lay down and nap. Because at the same time the album carries a distinctly dream-like quality--thanks not only to Simon writing his most impressionistic, least linear batch of songs to date, but to the languid quality of its melodic sense that offsets the busyness of the rhythm quite beautifully.
Though it obviously shares many qualities with its four-year-old predecessor, "Graceland"--including some of the same South African elements alongside new West African and Brazilian ones--this album may be harder for the public to get a handle on. Celebrative musical strains on the level of "You Can Call Me Al" are far fewer on this gentler, spookier effort.