Every time an artist of the ilk of Paul McCartney releases a new album, everyone in the music community takes notice. This is a man whose best work is long behind him, but he still has the ability to surprise on occasion as was evident with his last album of original material, 2013’s New, which was an excellent alternative pop/rock album.
New music from the likes of McCartney can be a hit, or it could be a miss, and therefore part of the listening experience is the fact you don’t really know what you are going to get making it that much more intriguing. This was something I faced when I sat down to give his latest offering a spin, his seventeenth studio album Egypt Station.
After an opening forty-second interlude, the album kicks off with the two pre-release singles, in the form of piano ballad I Don’t Know and up-tempo rocker Come On To Me. Both have that classic solo McCartney sound, with the former featuring unusual chord changes, Hey Jude-like melodies, and some delicate piano flourishes, and the latter horns, sitar-guitar, and Macca’s gravelly rock and roll vocals. A promising start to proceedings indeed.
Then comes Macca in a reflective mood with Happy With You. Here he looks back from the present on things he used to do including getting stoned and drunk while set to a mainly acoustic arrangement with just Paul and his guitar, something that has become somewhat of a trademark of his solo material over the years.
Who Cares is a bit of a throwaway but fun blues rocker featuring plenty of riffage and touches of organ, while Fuh You would have to be the most ridiculous song Paul has written in years, a song where he literally sings about, well, you know what. Not one of his finest moments let’s just say that.
After another acoustic number in the form of Confidante, the middle of the album springs into life with People Want Peace. It wouldn’t be an album by a Beatle without world peace being mentioned at some stage and that is what we get on here with the line “people want peace, a simple release from their suffering.”
We are then greeted with the forgettable piano ballad Hand In Hand before things pick up again, first with Dominoes, a track which had some nice minor chord changes and a catchy double-tracked vocal chorus from Macca, then the quirky fender Rhodes driven track Back In Brazil, a track which features a flute solo, adding a slight bossa nova feel to it, and is quite unlike anything I have heard from McCartney before.
The album then concludes on a strong note. Despite Repeated Warnings sounds like a modern-day Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey with its slow start transitioning into an up-tempo pop/rock jam. Then the climax is a medley of all-out rockers reminiscent of the classic Abbey Road medley in the form of Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link. This is a surprising but welcome end to the album for this massive Abbey Road fan.
Despite showing glimpses of promise, Egypt Station turns out to be a bit of an inconsistent affair from McCartney. After he explored more contemporary stylings on his previous album, I was expecting a bit more from Macca here in terms of experimentation and originality, but instead, he seems to have retreated a bit with many of the songs lacking an oomph which made New such a good listen.
Yes, there were moments where the old spark was there and you were reminded why he is one of the best songwriters in popular music, while his vocals were a definite standout defying his age. However, these moments were few and far between across the album in what overall, I would describe as being just an okay return.
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Released: 07 Sep 2018