It would seem as if Art Garfunkel's latest solo album exists for the sole purpose of showing that he has a sense of humor. The evidence isn't in the music but in the packaging. First, there's that mock-despairing title, Fate for Breakfast, and on the back cover, a subtitle, "Doubt for Dessert." Also on the back is Garfunkel in a tux, grinning with a blacked-out front tooth and gripping an extremely unattractive, half-eaten bone or, uh, some sort of...meat?
That's about it for amusement. The music on Fate for Breakfast is a series of coolly cooed pop tunes, sparely orchestrated but numbing in their similarity of tone. Each cut is a midtempo ballad, except for two midtempo demirockers. On last year's Watermark, Garfunkel transcended this kind of pop banality by immersing himself in a batch of Jimmy Webb songs. Webb supplied the spirit — an obsessive, neurotically romantic spirit — that Garfunkel obviously lacked, and the LP was a fascinating, if ultimately rather hateful, exercise.
Nothing spirited, let alone obsessive or neurotic, breaks Fate for Breakfast's serene surface. Los Angeles sessionmen glide by with their patented riffs as Art Garfunkel calmly injects narcolepsy into yet another soul standard ("Oh How Happy") in what is becoming an obligatory gesture for white soft-rockers.
If this be breakfast, bring on lunch.