Well, the dust has settled a bit, and I have got my head round Paul's latest offering. Take a seat, and have a read....
by the way, I'd like to wish all my mates here a Happy New Year. Cheers...!
He's not really like anyone else, our Paul, is he? He is, in fact, a one-off. Yeah, there are other one-offs in this galaxy we call pop/rock:
Bowie, the surreal, inventive genius who rarely fails to surprise; Springsteen, the blue-collar Joe who connects with his fans like no-one else;
there are, of course, others, many others, but I think the point I'm trying to make about Paul, and I have made it elsewhere, is that his songs are
so...well, Paulish. I have thought about this a lot- why do his songs not get covered more? Ok, Yesterday is the most covered song of all time, etc
but the reason is: they're different. Somehow. Its the chord use, its the effortless musicality, its that voice (more about that later), its the cheeky
little moments when he pastiches himself. The lyrics can be bland at times, admittedly, but what about Monkberry Moon Delight? wtf? Ok, Screaming Jay Hawkins
covered MMD in 1974...you should hear it- its a hoot!
The new album surprises from the start, with the simple, almost Neanderthal riff, the stadium-friendly lyric, the sheer ambience of spontaneity- groovy, spellbinding rocking out.
Save Us is never going to win Ivor Novello awards for brilliant songwriting, but this track is all about feel, and performance. The drum track possesses an energy which has been
largely missing from Paul latterly. You find yourself loving this in a way that hasn't really been possible for a while on Paul's albums. Yes, we are Macca
fans and as such will always find things to like, but love? That's been harder, of late, but the beginning of NEW fills us with a kind of primitive, yearning hope.
And Save Us does deliver, in its uncomplicated, almost inspired, way. This is Wings on speed, and what's wrong with that?
The little creaks and homeyness at the beginning of Alligator put me in mind of Paul's first solo album, all warts and reality. However, the track itself is actually quite complex.
Some of the lead guitar work is a bit 'leaky' and indistinct but is all the better for this. The breakdown is reminiscent of Strawberry Fields-vintage mellotron, and with Paul's new noble
warrior voice, sounds great. The mellotron, in fact seems to pan left, while the very 21st-century synth is positioned off to the right.
Lyrically, Alligator is interesting, all questing and yearning and talking romantically about keys. I love it: there's honesty here, and something else. Maturity, yes,
but also a kind of open-heartedness which is so welcome. The doo-doohs which appear with the harpsichord sound brilliant, and somehow the net result is, paradoxically, cheeky, and boyish, aged and true.
The simple acoustic guitar chords of the third track are deceptively simple- G, C and Eminor- but soon the song builds into something quite substantial, with glorious harmonies, and an almost sitar-like guitar line. There is a harmonium here, organic handclapping, and an ominous up and down guitar figure which is quite exciting in a raw, edgy way. Even the strings, once omnipresent in Paul's work, are mixed nice and low, yet they sound really effective. All in all, On My Way to Work is a standout recording/ performance for me, as well as a great song. Its as autobiographical as Paul gets (ok, Early Days is poignant) and a brilliant performance.
The old mellotron gets another run out in Queenie Eye's intro, and is a bit Dear Prudence. This track occupies that limbo land between pop and rock. Whatever it is, its an energetic
piece, with massive drumming from producer Paul Epworth, and brilliant musicianship all round. This reviewer especially loved the huge slide guitar part that accompanies the choruses. QE is one of those songs that could, depending on your perception, be described as either nonsense verse or a kind of universalist one that can mean differing things to different people. Is this about
Heather Mills? Is it about his long, not always harmonious dealings with those in the music business? Is it about getting on a bit? You decide, but I do love this track, a full aural landscape
with balls and substance.
Paul has a long and lucrative relationship with acoustic ballads, but despite the omnipresence of acoustic guitars on NEW, none are quite what you would call typical MCartneyesque
acoustic fare. Early Days is a kind of ballad, maybe, but this is about looking back to formative years, before fame, before the madness. Yes, its about love, but not romantic love.
You can imagine the old guy with a bit of a tear in his eye coming up with the lyrics for this one:
"Hair slicked back with Vaseline
Like the pictures on the wall of the local record shop
Hearing noises we where destined to remember
We willed the thrill to never stop..."
and he even manages to expand to reach out, with his guru advice to youngsters:
"May sweet memories of friends from the past always comes to you,
when you look for them
And your inspiration long may it last,
may it come to you time and time again".
Much has been made of the title track- its a return to form, its like Got to get you into my Life, yaddah yaddah. Maybe, and for these reasons, and others, this
could be among the weakest tracks on the album. Its not weak, though- its good. Its just that it almost sounds like a song he wrote 4 decades ago, or its the song
we always knew he would write one day. It is light lyrically, but the classic chord progression (triads with bass descending) saves it, as does the lovely instrumentation.
Its jaunty and nice but not really representative of the quality which runs throughout the album as a whole.
Paul, with Giles Martin at the desk, comes up with a cool almost triphop, stream of consciousness gem in Appreciate, one of my personal favourites on this album.
This one really benefits from a high volume treatment- give it a blast! Its free, its floaty, its lovely melody insinuating itself within a very 21st century backing track.
Its hard not to hear his ex Heather featuring in this one, although there is no bitterness biting here- just reflection and dare I say it, a bit of introspection.
A superb song, and a top-notch performance.
For me, Everybody out There is easily the worst track on the album. It sounds like its been created in a test-tube to be performed in vast stadiums. The theme is
decent and worthy enough- "do some good before you say goodbye"- but, though there is a certain conviction at work here, its just a bit banal. While the four producers
on NEW have done a great job in making a fading voice sound good, Paul''s voice- one a rocking force of nature, just sounds thin and painfully overstretched. Not like, sorry.
Hosanna's opening backward guitar figures invite us to join something a bit psychedelic, but this song in fact offers something different. Is Hosanna a woman, or a prayer?
Or is there something deeper going on here? Is Hosanna, in fact, Paul's entreaty to his own inspiration, his Muse, like Paul Simon did so long ago with Cecilia? Certainly, the
old biblical meaning hints at something like 'saviour', so maybe. The track itself is dreamy and features some great liquid bass playing by our man. While it is tempting for some
to describe this as somehow boring, the elements within it mean it is anything but. A fine song, and a real grower.
I can't stop myself from playing I can Bet- over and over! This is infectious, poppy Paul, melodic fun Paul. This is Wings revisited. Where are you, Denny?
Even the bit where Paul goes "oh no..." sounds just so seventies. If he's being at all self-conscious about these littlehers touches, it never shows as the conviction is so total. Also, killer middle eight, dynamics and even a great synth solo Linda could have played! Love love love this. Play loud.
Looking at Her is melodic and synthy in a nice though slightly contrived way: nice enough but a wee bit pasted on maybe? The guitars are good and Paul's voice is effective here in a treated, almost 'bass-off' Beatley way. Don't get me wrong, I like the track, just maybe not as much as some of the others. Sorry!
Road, on the other hand, is a real favourite. Deep, dark and murky, a swampy recording full of existential musings. The voice sounds good here too, and I particularly love the vocal/ instrumental climaxes here. Brilliant, and just too good for Electric Arguments, an album it seems to fit the best.
Turned out is another track where pure conviction and strength of performance outweigh any reservations I may have with regard to the song's merits as a song. Very Wingsy...mmm yeah....and this has a great middle eight. bridge of the kind at which this man is the master... looking back it didn't hurt me...that bit. I like, a lot.
If Seasick Steve was a 71 year-old dude from the northwest of England he may well sound like Paul does on Get me out of here. Or of Rick Rubin was suddenly wheeled in to produce. I noticed what sounds like fingers tapping away at an acoustic guitar here- like on Dear Boy over 40 years earlier. Oh well, there ain't nothing new, is there?
The hidden track begins like a classic Macca piano crooner but there is a lot else going on here. Paul sounds scared and old but in love. And hey, what's wrong with that?
So I stood with a knot in my stomach,
And I gazed at that terrible sight
Of two youngsters concealed in a barrel,
Sucking monkberry moon delight.