Paul McCartney - New | Album Review | By Volume

...was fond of your writing, it allowed me to see into you... The Hotelier - Discomfort Revisited

Paul McCartney


Stand back and watch how it’s done.

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Author: on October 17, 2013
October 14th, 2013

Stop touring. Stop singing altogether. Change his name. Go into hiding. These are just a number of suggestions that Sir James Paul McCartney may have to put into action to curtail endless blind criticism enveloping his every public move of late. Following his inadvertently maladroit rendition of Hey Jude at the Olympic closing ceremony, fractions of the public felt it was time to draw a line under the ex-Beatle’s career. “Time to call it a day, Paul. You’ve got enough money” read the comment sections on nearly every publication marking the release of New. However, with this cancerous sentiment relentlessly expanding throughout the national conscious, it’s time for the level headed, the clearly fair and the appreciative, to put our foot down and take back what is rightly ours. In recent years the British public have developed an odious, sneering obsession with putting down and openly maligning those stars whose faults are becoming or have become more apparent than during their peak. Yet it is the pride with which this slander is hysterically thrown from one moron to another that is the most maddening feature of this blossoming brand of brainless mudslinging. This, a society of seventy million people, too polite to kick up a fuss over anything less than a punch in the jaw, has collapsed into constant infantile, smug, cheap schadenfreude over ageing figures we were once clambering over each other to advertise as our own. They were British, and we were proud of it. The mop tops. The British Invasion. The ideologies. That night on the Ed Sullivan Show. The music, for Christ’s sake! The fucking music! The only band whose every album has its own micro-climate of iconic cultural nuances. Yet the British have even contrived to tarnish the reputation of our finest cultural exports, almost as if we were ashamed. Perhaps it is our erroneous, tired belief that self-deprecation can pass for modesty that has led some to believe we are entitled to such imperious levels of fickle infallibility, but think about it this way; until John Lennon’s untimely death in 1980, he and Paul were level-pegging in terms of both music and public status. Do these shiftless, bandwagon-jumping simpletons honestly not believe that the very same unsightly cruelty McCartney receives would not be bestowed upon Lennon? Of course it would. No matter the quality of his or her music, we’re suggesting that an older artist genuinely cannot be revered if their best days are behind them? Bollocks. Let me tell you this; McCartney is back with a fucking bulldozer, and some heads are about to get cracked together.

To put it simply, New is as much an excellent idea executed perfectly as the ideas contained within it. A stale sound bolstered by five different producers including Mark Ronson. An ageing voice supported by spared usage and a solid musical backdrop. New is a record that, from its inception, was always destined to have a firing squad poring over it for any false moves, yet, through a series of decisions taken with seemingly unending care, rather than lowering the guns with a flower in the barrel, it bolts the guard towers and vanishes without a trace. It has to be said; McCartney’s sixteenth solo album is a truly fabulous triumph, and the reason behind its success is as plain as daylight; it’s a trap of illusion and duplicity.

Somehow, the record sounds like vintage McCartney, while simultaneously an air of the unknown pervades every corner. It sounds familiar but at this same time it’s just… different. The brutal, distorted blues breaks on On My Way to Work and the compressed electro-pop whistles on Alligator fall like a jigsaw into place alongside a milieu of McCartney trademarks; the “choo-ka-choo-ka-choo”-ing on the title track and the resurgent Beatles-era slapback echo slammed on his vocals across the entire record. The entire album hits the nail just off the centre of the head and it comes out as a quirky, daring and carefree 46 minutes that McCartney fans can finally sink their teeth into. Even his recent forays into pseudo-atmospheric grooves (Chaos and Creation’s “Riding to Vanity Fair” and Memory Almost Full’s “House of Wax”) are honed into the album’s more audacious moments on the slinky Appreciate and the superbly muscular, captivating Road. However, it is the carefree aspect of New that is its most powerful weapon. I mean, Save Us, perhaps the most memorable cut here, is so devastatingly effective because it goes out on a limb. Without holding back, it genuinely sounds like Paul McCartney channelling The Strokes circa 2000. It’s as assertive and commanding as it is unhinged and unruly, blending all these into one perfect storm of wit and energy. I may need to briefly remind you that this man – singing “she had removed her clothes for the likes of me” and serving up this boisterous chaos like a slap in the face – is 71 years old. How about that?

However, it is “Early Days” that acts as a sudden, jarring freeze frame that deserves the closest look. It’s not the strongest track, lyrically or musically, and God knows how many times Lennon and McCartney penned songs about (often reviling) one another post-Beatles, but a song so reminiscent, lyrically and musically, of that pre-Beatles era of wandering around Liverpool as friends with guitars has come at exactly the right time. It’s truly touching that McCartney has left it until this time, his voice in dramatic decline, to openly proclaim the fact that where it all started is untouchable. People can scrutinise patiently, follow devoutly or, as we’ve seen, criticise virulently, but before the stardom that trapped Paul McCartney forever took hold are memories that nobody else will ever experience. For all I know, this could be a response to those castigating his every move. Everybody, even those in the spotlight for the vast majority of their time on Earth, has their own invulnerable moments and McCartney’s are about as solitary as they come; even Lennon isn’t here to share them any more.

“Do some good before you say goodbye”. That is the final line of the chorus of “Everybody Out There”. There’s no getting around it, Paul McCartney is, for a recording artist, getting old. This might be the last you hear of him in the studio, and it may not be ‘doing some good’ for the sake of humanity, but if this is the final release, he’s set the record straight. In all honesty, McCartney has done us, the public, some good by reminding us why we should cherish him. For one of the most imaginative musical minds in history, the fact that he can still smash one out of the park quite so thoroughly is proof, if proof be needed, that we as a society should go to the ends of the Earth to defend this man at all costs. Though we seem hell-bent on doing so, we shouldn’t fecklessly, aimlessly taint this simply awe-inspiring legacy. We should be prepared to take a bullet like we so eagerly do for Bowie, for Mercury, for Plant, for Jagger, because I know, you know and Christ knows that we will never see another like Sir James Paul McCartney.

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  • James b

    Well said! Absolutely brilliant album and genius songwriter.


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