This man has a problem, and this problem has been assailing him since, er, about April 1970. That's a long time to fight against yourself and your legacy. Paul McCartney was still 27 years old when the Beatles finally went their separate, bitter ways. Paul hasn't been helped by critics who go on and on about how this new work (pick an album, any album) simply does not match up to his greatest work- when he was a Beatle. Well, duh.
This piece is not intended to be a review of the new album- there are good reviews out there already- but it is an attempt to examine where McCartney the artist is at, as they say, in 2013.
Critics can be many things- they can be intuitive, insightful, even perspicacious (look it up, if ye must). They can also, unfortunately, be vindictive, nasty, but worst of all, just plain ignorant. Much of Paul's work has been panned, some with some justification. However, this is the man who part-invented the pop music as the art-form we know now, ubiquitous, sometimes great, often risible. This legacy alone assures him his spot at Rock Music's Last Supper, maybe even in the Birthday Boy position. This critic would argue that his output has been, on the whole, miraculous, if you like, or love, MUSIC. This is where many critics get stuck in their own too-smart treacle- Paul is a musician, with music pretty much coming out of every pore. There are other rock artists, such as Bowie, Dylan, Springsteen, who are, or can be, brilliant writers: Born to Run is one of the genre's most amazing songs; Dylan's lyrics pretty much crap all over most of Macca's, with a few exceptions; and the genius Bowie's output has hardly been flawless, though his high points were wonderful and ground-breaking. The Rolling Stones, as Lennon said long ago, took what the Beatles were doing and replicated it on their next album. My point? These great artists do not possess an ounce of McCartney's musicality. Even his dodgiest work- the less-than-stellar A or B- sides, like Once Upon a Long Ago, or A Love For You, even the weird rarity Robber's Ball, or all of 'Ram', feature melodies our man can make up in his sleep. And this preternatural ability is also his greatest failing- after all, you're a multi-millionaire with little and everything to still prove, you HAVE to carry on, so you end up writing silly, frivolous, sentimental odes to family and love. Paul said “ what's wrong with that” but the critics said “a lot, Paul”.
He made truly great albums, though. His first solo album, though a Heath Robinson, sometimes clunky affair, still featured Maybe I'm Amazed (and Kreen Akrore!); Band on the Run, is, rightfully a classic with the awesome, and underrated, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five; Wings Wild Life is lazy but Dear Friend is on there- and the list goes on. Some good, some not so, some great.
So, the NEW album? The fight goes on, but our man's gloves are shiny and polished. He is off the ropes with certainly his best offering this century, and quite possibly the best since his best seventies work. There is spontaneity in New, a weird energy unusual in a man in his eighth decade. Well, the Beatles reinvented a lot of things, so why can Paul not re-examine the notion of old age?
The feel of New is Ram -like, a little McCartney II- like, a little smattering of the, for want of a better description, hippy sensibility that has fuelled much of his best work. Another thing the critics don't always get- they concentrate on the mawkish singles instead of critically (get it?) examining the inherent eccentricity of a large percentage of the body of work. Monkberry Moon Delight, 1985, Morse Moose, anything on Electric Arguments, could have been written by nobody else. The demonised Press to Play, though below-par, is inventive and weird. Ram is quite simply one of the best rock/pop/weird Macca albums ever made, and contains songwriting of the type you simply do not hear these days. Show me the current equal of the majestic Back Seat of my Car....
It is undeniable that Paul's voice has taken a battering in recent years. I saw him in Dublin in 2003, and, though it stood up well, the cracks were clearly audible. Received wisdom might suggest that he should take a break from live work to re-energise the vocal chords but time is not on his side in this regard. He's still in the ring for as long as he can stand the punches- he may even offer up a knock-out or two himself before, inevitably, the bell must toll.
Last edited by garrystanton
on Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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.