Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: Hear Music / Virgin EMI
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Album Rock
At its quietest moments, 2007's Memory Almost Full played like a coda to Paul McCartney's illustrious career; he seemed comfortable residing in the final act of his legend, happy to reflect and riff upon his achievements. Such measured meditation is largely absent from 2013's New, the first collection of original material he's released since 2007. New lives up to its title, finding McCartney eager, even anxious, to engage with modern music while simultaneously laying claim to the candied, intricate psychedelia of latter-day Beatles.
When most people reach the tender age of 64, they step silently into retirement. Maybe invest in a vacation home. Take up gardening. When he was 64, Paul McCartney launched one of the most fertile periods of his post-Beatles career. Since 2005, he’s released seven records—two original classical ….
The title of McCartney’s last album of all-new material, 2007’s Memory Almost Full, may have had some fans wondering if it was meant as some kind of farewell. Was he preparing to serve out the rest of his time by playing increasingly nostalgic live shows and helming crooner covers projects such as last year’s Kisses On The Bottom? It’s pleasing to report, however, that New finds him at his most vital and engaged for some time, on possibly his most satisfying collection of songs since 1989’s Flowers In The Dirt. Not that there isn’t room for nostalgia: the busker-like strum of On My Way To Work places McCartney on the top deck of a bus for the first time since A Day In The Life, while the folky Early Days is a vivid series of snapshots of his and The Beatles’ beginnings (“Dressed in black from head to toe/Two guitars across our backs”).
Sure, last year's set of pre-rock pop standards (Kisses on the Bottom) was charming. But at 71, Paul McCartney has thankfully returned to the music of eternal youth. Recorded with a round robin of top-flight producers, including retro-modernist Mark Ronson, U.K. pop supersizer Paul Epworth and Giles (son of George) Martin, New feels energized and full of joyous rock & roll invention.
Paul McCartney’s previous two solo albums of all original material, 2005’s Chaos And Creation In The Backyard and 2007’s Memory Almost Full, may have been less accessible and rocking than the big hits of his heyday, but they highlighted his strengths as a songwriter. Maybe the constant touring he’s been doing between then and now delighting huge audiences with songs from throughout his entire career has recharged his crowd-pleasing batteries, because his latest release, accurately titled New, features him going for the gusto once again with wonderful results. McCartney’s solo stuff has always been at its best when he works with strong-willed producers.
These melodies aren’t as complex as on some of McCartney’s past work, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fulfilling. The cascading, layered vocal harmonies aren’t so present here either, but even without them his style is immediately recognizable. New proves that he’s been listening all these years—he’s appropriated some new influences along with the foundations of his past work.
Should we be excited about a new Paul McCartney album? On the one hand he is, unarguably, the most successful living musician in the world. He helped create the very language of pop music - without him, metaphorically, we’d all be speaking German. For half a century he’s been an active part of the musical landscape, and even his lesser works are of value.
At 71, Paul McCartney hasn’t changed his tune, despite calling his latest and 16th (!) studio album, New. He’s the same affable rock star he was back in October of 1962, when he issued The Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do”. That ornamental English accent, his trademark shag, and his boyish smile can still charm teenagers across the world, as creepy and awkward as that might sound, in theory.
If there’s one single song that can justify the existence of Paul McCartney’s 24th studio album since leaving the Beatles, it’s track number five, “Early Days". At first blush it seems to be that most heinous of Boomer cliches, the acoustic Those Were the Days ballad where youth-culture narcissism collides with old-people shmaltz, but fairly quickly the song resolves into something much more interesting. While the verses are a rose-tinted reminiscence of McCartney and John Lennon’s brief period of pre-fame friendship in Liverpool, the choruses project something altogether different: “They can’t take it from me/ if they try/ I lived through those early days.
Last year’s reissue of Ram reminded those rendered cynical by Paul McCartney’s recent output, a mixture of headscratchingly noisy and predictably schmaltzy, that the sweetest Beatle is one of the best pop songsmiths of all time, sans argument. He’s back with New, whose neon, minimal album art and sparkly production from not only Giles Martin but hotshots Mark Ronson and Paul Epworth isn’t as “new” as it seems. Instead, McCartney’s for the most part back to basics on his 16th solo studio record (and 24th overall since leaving the moptops).
New finds Paul McCartney no closer to resting on his golden laurels than he was 40 years ago. After last year's album of standards, Kisses on the Bottom, New is his first collection of new material since 2007's Memory Almost Full, and judging by the tone of the album's liner notes, he sounds downright buzzed about sharing the experience and its outcome. .
Paul McCartney’s new album, appropriately (for now) titled New, is the former Beatle’s first album of all new songs since Memory Almost Full (2007). Later McCartney may be somewhat difficult to review or even listen to objectively, especially now that we have hit the 51-year mark since the Beatles’ first single “Love Me Do” (primarily written by McCartney, with input from John Lennon) was released. The Knighted Beatle has accomplished so much in his 71 years and has created so much incredible music (helping to change the very soundscape of rock ‘n’ roll along the way) that it’s easy to listen to New or, really, any post-Beatles output and casually label said output as “not his best work”.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of our nostalgia-obsessed age, but over the last decade or so rock’n’roll has shed the stigma of getting older. Quips have been made about The Rolling Stones’ advancing decrepitude since they were lithe fiftysomethings, yet this summer, on the cusp of their seventies, they became the most popular headliners in Glastonbury history. Ten years ago, new David Bowie albums were met with mild dread and disinterest; today, they are bona fide cultural events.
Poor Paul McCartney. He really does deserve far more in the way of deference than the British public have afforded him recently; he’s been treated as some kind of achingly uncool granddad – if, of course, your granddad happened to be the most successful recording artist in history. His appearances at both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee ‘concert’ and the opening ceremony of the Olympics last year were met with widespread derision, with only part of the blame being apportioned to his consistently dubious combination of hair dye abuse and that most egregious of fashion faux-pas – trainers with a suit.
Like that of some of his illustrious contemporaries from the 1960s, Paul McCartney's new music needs to perform a move of such complexity that it would be more at home in yoga: looking forward, while looking back, while remaining relevant. It's decidedly difficult to pull off, this move, and New, McCartney's 16th studio album, almost does it. Disregard the cool neon bars that spell out the title on the cover: this music is not all that stark.
On the third Anthology compilation, you can hear the Beatles trying to record Paul McCartney's Teddy Boy during the January 1969 sessions documented in the Let It Be film. Or, at least, three of the Beatles are trying to record Paul McCartney's Teddy Boy. John Lennon had long tired of the quainter side of his collaborator's work, or "Paul's granny music" as he put it, with his legendary tact.
Forty years into a mostly humdrum solo career, Paul McCartney has long since lapsed into a sort of cozy irrelevance, each new album by the old master greeted with respect, but not much expectation. Never erring from the same professionalism that made for 12 Beatles albums in seven years, he continues making agreeable music, long established as a consistent, if inauspicious, constant, far removed from the ambitious song suites and giddy oddness that defined his first few lone efforts. As Ben Greenman noted in his recent New Yorker review, “saying that Paul McCartney wrote a bouncy, prepossessing song on the high side of passable is like saying that a bird laid an egg.
“All the demons used to come round,” Eddie Vedder sings in “Future Days,” the ballad that closes “Lightning Bolt,” Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album. “I’m grateful now they’ve left.” Well, not entirely: Pearl Jam still needs something to brood about. “Lightning Bolt” (Monkeywrench) is Pearl Jam’s current answer to the open question of how to create honest rock as a grown-up.
Anyone fortunate enough to see Paul McCartney in concert in recent years knows that he has lost very little of his stride and has perhaps even gained a renewed pep. That sense of purpose is reflected in “New,” his first album of original material in six years, following his sweet-natured trip into the pre-rock era with last year’s “Kisses on the Bottom. ” A mix of sounds and styles, “New” has echoes of Macca’s brilliant past — especially in the instant earworm title track with its happy high-stepping groove, irresistible melody, and falsetto coos — as well as a recognition for contemporary production that favors bent and woozy electronic bits.
opinion byJERRICK ADAMS You want to know a secret, and a scandalous one at that? I’ve never much cared for the Beatles. And it’s not for lack of trying. Every couple of years I get a wild hair up my ass and resolve to give the most iconic band in the history of popular music another shot. And every time, after a couple of weeks of listless listening, I give it up and go back to my beloved Stones.
Great, just what the world needs: more enthusiasm for something Beatles-related. It's a little tiresome, after all, this relentless fawning. Seems like every fiscal quarter something else pops up: an anniversary, reissue, Cirque du Soleil production, documentary, or surprising new solo album. This is a modal window.
Elton John The Diving Board (Capitol/Mercury) Paul McCartney New (Hear Music) Just call them Sir. While one, Sir Elton John, 66, reclaims the piano-centric simplicity of his earliest works on 31st LP The Diving Board, the other, Sir Paul McCartney, 71, rockets forward into the robotic New millennium. Both approaches are problematic. Hitting reset in 2010 with Leon Russell collaboration The Union, the former – author of more than 50 Top 40 hits – eschews formulaic pop for the stripped barroom noir of "Oscar Wilde Gets Out" and church hymn "A Town Named Jubilee." All too soon, though, "My Quicksand," which would be a perfect Rufus Wainwright vehicle, sinks overwrought while drawing the disc's Maginot Line.