Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Harper Simon just happens to be Paul Simon's son. It's likely one of those things that you might fantasize about being, yourself, unless it's your actual lot in life and then the peachiness of it might not be there. It might be one of those things - if it happens to you -- that you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy - being born to one of the most famous and revered people in the world. Oh, it might not be so bad. It might just be a bunch of hogwash, the cons involved with such a lineage, but too often this baggage is as heavy as it comes, dealing a person some sour cards to have to play with - imagined or actual. You see it time after time, the ruination of a person thanks to all of the famous kid factors. Simon, the younger, is nearly a 40-year-old man these days, and last year, he released his debut album, a self-titled affair that is significant in its own right, regardless of who he calls daddy. He's old enough to be four or five albums deep into a career, but this hasn't been a natural arch. He's been beset by drug addictions and depression for a large portion of his adult life and all of it has led to his delayed emergence as an artist, wasting his days and many fortunes on substances.
"Still Crazy After All These Years," was written by his father, about his mother - Peggy Harper - a few years after their divorce, when Harper was just a toddler and it's a sentiment that he brings into his hazy indie rock, in a way that link him more favorably to the dark dreams and sinews of Cass McCombs than they do to his father and his music. Harper Simon's strengths lie in the utter miseries that sound as if they were propagated almost exclusively by him and his estranged ways. These episodes and struggles have become his muscles and his balm. They've become how he sees himself, through these various hard walks and the times that he's deemed somewhat, "scripts that are scriptures," suggesting that the storylines he's seen have been lessons learned, lessons written into books so that they never have to be learned again. There's a lot of the "do as I say, not as I do" motif running through the album, not in a preachy way, but in a way that feels like an exhausted sigh, a robust exhalation that's been brought on by lost weekends and lost years and stressful ambivalence. On "The Audit," Simon sings, "Sometimes we all break down/When there's no friends around/You see yourself in photographs from winters past/Remembering the days in your hometown," and much of the record follows in this same passage of melancholy and times gone by. It's not so much that anyone was let down or that there was a failure, just an unavoidable rough patch where fingers could or couldn't be pointed, but really, it's not going to do any good as that train's already left the station and the blame is just going to boomerang right back and hit square between the eyes. It's as if he's come out of his concussions and things have been learned. The melodies that he stretches from his throat are easy and breezy, just like the ones his father has written and still writes, but they are meant more to cushion the blow and to encourage us to explore the storms that he waged in his younger, fumbling years. When he sings, "Left a trail of one-liners in truck stops and diners and ended up dazed and confused/I could have been dead, but I met you instead, now everything's perfectly clear/Laugh or the joke's on you/But you've only known me since I've been lonely so you don't believe that it's true" on the song, "Ha Ha," we officially see the changed man and we feel deeply for him. Here's to some great mid-life productivity for Mr. Harper Simon.