paul

Paul McCartney – New

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I never was one for the punk movement’s hatred of the old, or the skilled/talented. It often seemed like a media scam to get people to go the shows of lazy/slack wannabe musicians. Except for The Clash and The Stranglers, of course (and a clutch of other excellent bands, hah). Is it because I’m in my late thirties? Possibly, though I’ve felt that way since I first heard the Sex Pistols at about 15.

The 21st century couldn’t give too much of a toss about punk either, by all accounts – probably because due to the dire state of things, the international secret warfare nature of modern life, the old guard are less a tedious cultural barrage than a bunch of groovy, rich old folks who are (often quite obliviously) consolidating their legacies with damn good albums. Too often these new albums show up the transient young pretenders for the imagination and dedication deficit clothes-horses that they are.

Recent Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Kate Bush, Stones sets and of course this year’s Bowie comeback have all been ‘progress’-defying, confident statements – and as the world, Monsanto and the Internet have shown us, ‘progress’ is over-rated. None of this is to imply that chirpy-Gemini-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder, world’s-richest-musician Paul McCartney’s new album ‘New’ isn’t at all daring – his experiments were already done a long time ago, and no one needs Skrillex remixing Blackbird.

It’s pointless and counter-productive to compare ‘New’ to Penny Lane, Lady Madonna, Band On The Run or Live And Let Die – though McCartney being such an integrated patch in the quilt of songwriting culture, it’s perfectly natural. In the same way as ‘The Next Day’, ‘New’ imperiously scans and cherry-picks the past 50 years, and condenses its best moments and tricks into these dozen tracks. The trendy prıducers (too trendy for me to name) actually do a very good job, not impeding the still-excellent and bold songwriting. Paul doesn’t have a Lennon or Harrison to fuck up arrangements, but seems way past needing one anyway.

‘Save Us’ is an inauspicious start, coming on all Queen-covering-The-Strokes naff, but Macca probably wanted an ‘upbeat, jaunty opener’. Or a good idea to start the album with a duffer, as the rest of the album gets better and better (no, that did NOT happen on the last Kings Of Leon album). ‘Alligator’ (not an Ed harcourt cover) is much better, rocking his Rocky Raccoon/harpsichord knees-up inflections, with the records best lead guitar stabs (get Jack White in to do these next time around).

‘Queenie Eye’ is absolutely terrific, proper McCartney drunk dynamism, and ironically enough what Beady Eye would indeed sound like given the gift of imagination and grace. The concept of McCartney ‘On The Way To Work’ is admittedly pretty funny, but the track of that name here is great, his witticism as sharp as ever, as he details the mediated unavoidability of young nubiles who ‘like to waterski‘.

The title track is not only pure Beatles, but classic Beatles, the pounding harpsichord, piano and horns all in place, ambiguously empowering lyrics too – and don’t forget McCartney was already often a nostalgic, sentimental songwriter even by the mid-sixties. ‘Appreciate’s space-drums may not be to everyone’s taste, but his sublime, and yes, sexy near-falsetto vocal shows Muse or MGMT a thing or two about how to convincingly pull off postmodern stripper-music. Intriguing and idiosyncratic, continuing his own ‘Temporary Secretary’ what-was-that? tradition.

‘Hosanna’ is another highlight, a touching and delicate strum in his hermetically-sealed love song idiom. It’s unpretentious and played straight, relying on the nuance of the song itself, sounding like nothing so much as early Page & Plant at their most sensitive, but eventually very much himself. ‘I Can Bet’ is an unselfconscious retro-rocker in the Steely Dan mould, and his career-long preoccupation with roads reaches a unique conclusion here with the fabulously strange ‘Road’, weird piano and xylophone riffs and group chants colliding in a kind of demented hymn to positivity.

It’s a universally acknowledged fact that Paul McCartney doesn’t need to bother anymore, that his legend is secure. However, apparently he doesn’t care about all that – he just loves to write, record and play his insanely compulsive songs…but his need for your approval is as deep as it was in 1963. ‘New’ is the sound of utterly convincing confidence in a craft honed over five decades, and moreover the beautiful sound of a man in love with life and music, on its own terms.

[Rating:4]

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.