Monday, October 14, 2013
Paul McCartney's "New"
Fifty years of making music, eight of which were with a band called The Beatles, and Paul McCartney can still evoke some unpleasant chills out of the most loyal fan with his lyrics. This problem is one of two things that jumped out at me after spending a week with "New," Sir Paul's latest. The other is how "New" is the first record where the "cute" Beatle sounds fragile. Paul McCartney's voice has finally started to break with age.
I can deal with clumsy couplets like "Hey everybody out there, you know what it's like, if you haven't got a life, when you haven't get a life." I've been dealing with his silly love songs for years and believe me, there are worse things out there. But hearing this legend sound only a bit like Paul McCartney on a half-dozen or so songs, was a bit harder to handle.
This isn't necessarily bad news.
Paul McCartney's post-Band On The Run solo career is not unlike the Rolling Stones' post-Exile career in that many ridicule it based the strength of one weak hit song or worse, nothing. I am not about to defend all of Paul's solo work. I've been there and done that. But I will say this again. Our listening habits have changed for the worse. If it can't be dialed up, swiped, streamed or listened to while on a Nordic track, or if the first 30 seconds of each of the ten samples posted on some site didn't quite cut it, the record is toast. Some artists deserve more than that. Paul McCartney is one of those artists.
"New" has more than a few fantastic moments.
The first single is pure pop magic, sounding like what the follow-up single to "Penny Lane" might have sounded like. "On My Way To Work" is one of those songs where McCartney sounds like he's struggling vocally, but he creates a wonderful scene and the charm of his cracking voice turns what might have been an awkward lyric into something emotional.
"Early Days" finds Paul reminiscing about his first band and trying to set the record straight. In the hands of a singer-songwriter like John Hiatt, this song would possibly find strength in its simplicity and become a classic like Hiatt's "Have A Little Faith In Me." But I'm predicting universal eyerolls and groans because that's what everyone loves to do to Paul McCartney. "Early Days" leaves nothing to the imagination. It's heart on your sleeve, but for my money, it works.
The rockers like "Save Us' and Everybody Out There" have their moments, and songs like "Alligator" and "Appreciate" do not. This is where the luxury (?) of having four producers instead of one gets in the way.
Along with the title track, the two highlights for me are "Queenie Eye" and "Looking At Her," the former with its nod to "Strawberry Fields Forever" is just a killer, full of hooks and twists and melody and music, the latter a ballad that shows why Paul McCartney still warrants the respect of all the naysayers.
I don't know what people want or expect from Paul McCartney. It's been a long ride. He's 71 years old and in the last fifteen years has released a record as good as any in "Flaming Pie," a kick-ass rock and roll record featuring some of England's finest (Dave Gilmour & Ian Paice) in "Run Devil Run," a mature pop record in "Chaos & Creation In The Backyard" and a gorgeously executed standards record that puts all other "rockers doing standards" albums to shame in "Kisses On The Bottom." Now we have "New," maybe not the best of Paul's solo work, but I doubt very much that you will hear anything even remotely as coherent from any of his peers.
Give the Beatle a break and spend more time than a casual pass with "New." There won't be too many more records from Paul McCartney.