Paul McCartney

Hear Music, 2013

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


The fact that Paul McCartney chose NEW to be the title of his latest records speaks a great deal to the challenges he faces as an artist. Of all the musicians from the ‘60s and ‘70s, McCartney has no choice but to veer between full on nostalgia or completely disregarding the things he does best. Is it possible for McCartney to actually do something new, in 2013? Probably not, and NEW does nothing to suggest otherwise.

To be perfectly honest, the last record that McCartney recorded that came close to pushing him out of his comfort zone was 2005‘s Chaos And Creation In The Backyard. That record gets better and better with each passing year, whereas an album like 2007’s Memory Almost Full fails to leave any sort of legacy. It is unclear just what McCartney was looking for when it came to recording and releasing NEW; it’s rare that he goes with a “throw things against a wall and see what sticks” mantra for a record.

The lead single “New” is the perfect example of McCartney’s musical dilemma: one the one hand it is almost the perfect example of what a pop song should be, in both temperament and build. On the other, it ismy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 exactly the kind of song McCartney could write in five minutes, and has been recording for decades. It makes it hard to form a connection with an album if so much of it is superficial.

McCartney’s choice to work with four different producers (Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns, Paul Epworth, and Giles Martin) certainly suggests that he did not have a particular sound in mind when choosing to record this album, and that approach yields a variety of sounds that definitely fall in between late period Beatles and the heyday of the Wings era. One of the more entertaining aspects of NEW is trying to guess just which track was produced by whom. More often than not, the answer may not be what one would expect.

Giles Martin is listed as producer for roughly half of the tracks on this disc, and apparently inherited his father’s gift for being able to work with the Fab Four. His tracks are amongst the best on the record, taking that McCartney sound and making some interesting tweaks to it. Songs like “I Can Bet,” and “Everybody Out There” are plucked straight out of the 1970s, down to the classic “Uncle Albert” fuzzy vocals that make Paul sound as if he’s in his 30s. In fact, it’s remarkable how well his voice has held up; the man is 71 years old and while you can definitely pick up a little wear and tear, that voice still can nail a song when he has to.

You can usually depend on there being one song on a latter day McCartney record that really dials up the bombast and goes for broke. “The Road” closes out the album, and it supposed to assume the position of the “big” song, but despite the layers of echo and the slow build it never quite takes off the way it was meant to be. McCartney’s usually able to deliver that moment, and it’s disappointing NEW doesn’t end that way.

Of course, this is not a bad album; it is far from it. There are artists who with their God-given talents are incapable of making terrible records. McCartney is decidedly amongst that group, and so even in his 70s, recording his 16th studio album, NEW finds a certain measure of success. But as so often is the case, it is an album that the listener will spin a few times, and then file away in a month or so.

Rating: B-

User Rating: A-



© 2013 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hear Music, and is used for informational purposes only.