For me, alarm bells started going when it became apparent Paul McCartney had enlisted four different producers for his 16th studio album, New – being Paul Epworth, Giles Martin, Ethan Johns and Mark Ronson. Would this suggest that ultimately the living legend had run out of ideas? Or would we be treated to the dubious pleasure of Mark Ronson smattering his typical trumpet “blarts” over cheap knock-offs of Hey Jude, and When I’m 64? Thankfully, neither of these nightmarish scenarios have come to pass; this album is another solid addition to McCartney’s legacy, and there is no Ronson brass section or collaboration with Q-Tip in sight.
Immediately, it becomes apparent McCartney has not run out of ideas, and indeed prior to release of the album, he cited his new marriage and his life pre-Beatles as the driving forces behind the work (Source: BBC). It is this revelation of life pre-Beatles that makes the album so interesting, with Early Days seeming particularly poignant. You can certainly imagine those who grieved over John Lennon’s death feeling equally emotional at the lyrics:
Two guitars across our backs…
Seeking someone who would listen to the music
That we were writing down at home.
This confessionary aspect to the album grounds McCartney – it makes him a human figure, despite his iconic status.
Yet, it would be invalid to claim this album is a memoir, as like the title suggests, McCartney does attempt to strike out into new ground. Admittedly, this is where the album falls down, with the problematic Appreciate sounding like a cover of Undisclosed Desires era Muse. Hosanna is equally unsatisfactory, reminiscent of a drug-fueled rendition of Kumbaya around a campfire. Thankfully, the track sandwiched between these two, Everybody Out There, is an enjoyable anthem that seems to have been written with McCartney’s diverse gig audiences in mind. I can imagine those original Beatles fans responding emphatically to cries of “Talk to me, I can’t hear you!”
What McCartney has produced is another solid piece of his legacy, one that is both reminiscent and forward facing. For every On My Way To Work, there is a New – the latter being the lead-off single that combines the archetypal traits of McCartney’s songwriting with Ronson’s modern production. Whilst by no means his most cogent effort, we recommend New, and we hope that this isn’t the last chapter in McCartney’s music career.
Picks:New, Early Days, Save Us