Art for Art’s Sake has not been forsaken; like the long-distance walker it honors, it’s just moving at its own pace.
And here we are at the end of Side Two of Breakaway.
Having spent much of the album singing about lost love, departing love, faraway love, hopeful-but-not-yet-proven love, and unreachable love, Art now makes the bold move of ending his album with a five-part choral quodlibet that combines Gilbert and Sullivan tunes with melodies from Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives.
No, of course he doesn’t. He turns back to Stephen Bishop, then an unsigned up-and-comer, for Bish’s second placement on the album — a melancholy ballad about the pain of faded love that won’t disappear.
(The point of the song where Art really cuts loose is on the words “Remembering / Remembering,” which pretty much sums up the mood.)
The last song on Angel Clare was a lullaby in which Art reassured those around him that he would stand watch over their peaceful sleep. It made for a solid, reasonably upbeat, I’m-still-here ending to a comeback album.
“The Same Old Tears,” in contrast, is fully focused inward on Art’s bruised heart. He’s not thinking about taking care of anybody else, and the unconvincing refrain of “I’m all right” doesn’t suggest Our Narrator is doing a great job taking care of himself either.
As a closing statement, it conveys resignation and long-lasting inner torment — a turned back, a shuffle off through the rain, a slow dissolve. A muddled, dissatisfied, Seventies-movie-ish kind of ending … but, for all that, an ending well-suited to Garfunkel’s emotional turf.
As a composition, it’s much more creative and varied than Bishop’s other contribution to the record. It fits Art nicely, and he gets his teeth into it: Even as the record fades, you can hear him vocalizing wordlessly along with the string section, as if reluctant to let the song go.
If Art had cut that mythical, Sinatra-style album of heartbreak ballads I hypothesized about at the end of my “All I Know” writeup, this one would have fit well on it. Which is to say, you can feel the knife twist.