The press for Paul McCartney’s 16th album, New, indicates that it is his 1st record of new material (not cover versions) since 2007’s Memory Almost Full. To view that as an accurate accounting would be akin to viewing the past through rose-colored lenses (which I’ve been known to do on occasion). In 2008 Paul McCartney released a gem of an album in collaboration with Youth (Killing Joke) as The Fireman entitled Electric Arguments. Though it was the duo’s third record, it was their 1st with Paul McCartney’s signature vocals. Experimental yet with strong melodies, it was one of my favorite McCartney releases. A few years off followed by a covers collection record had me a little worried that Sir Paul had possibly resigned himself to riding away gently into the sun, a happy life in old age. I needn’t have worried so – 2013 brought strong collaborations with the surviving members of Nirvana as well as dance outfit The Bloody Beetroots. The new full length by Paul McCartney, New, uses some of those experiences and fuses them into a record that sounds current while also nodding towards his time with The Beatles.
The album starts off with a blast of guitar in “Save Us” that sounds like The Cars in the early 80’s. McCartney’s vocals drive that point home, using a new wave rock ‘n’ roll voice that is layered in echo. A very strong opener. “Alligator” follows up the opener with another standout track. A dark guitar refrain runs through the track, sounding like an Abbey Road outtake. At 71, McCartney still sounds restless and his lyrics hint at longing for peace “I want someone to come home to / I need somewhere I can sleep / I need a place where I can rest my weary bones / And have a conversation not too deep”. Single “Queenie Eye” is a slab of brilliance that sounds like The Beatles with its bouncy bass and piano refrains. The video also features a few famous faces (Meryl Streep, Kate Moss, Jude Law, Captain Jack Sparrow) at Abbey Road where The Beatles recorded almost all of their albums and singles. “Early Days’ is an acoustic gem with an amazing diss on those who get their facts mixed up about The Beatles: “Now everybody seems to have their own opinion / Of who did this and who did that / But as for me I don’t see how they can remember / When they weren’t where it was at”. “Appreciate” is the track that sounds the most forward-looking, a strong dance beat holding down the tune as Macca chants the title with loops threatening to take over the song. Almost a funky delivery of the verses, this is my favorite song on the album. “Hossana” is a classic McCartney lament, at once positive and resigned to the passage of time. “Scared” is a bonus track but is one of the strongest tunes on the record. Naked in emotion, the piano backing adding resonance to these words “I’m scared to say I love you / Afraid to let you know / That the simplest of words won’t come out of my mouth”
An essential release by one of the most influential artists of the last 50 years – a refreshing blast of retro futurism rock ‘n’ roll. I’d seek out the Deluxe edition as those tracks keep up the high quality of the album proper. Sir Paul’s recent collaborations have served his muse in the best possible way and I’m looking forward to whatever the next chapter brings us.
- Save Us
- On My Way to Work
- Queenie Eye
- Early Days
- Everybody Out There
- I Can Bet
- Looking at Her
- Turned Out (on Deluxe edition)
- Get Me Out of Here (on Deluxe edition)
- Scared (on Deluxe edition)
Verdict: Return of the Fireman
For Fans of: The Beatles, Radiohead, Nirvana, David Bowie, John Lennon