Reviewed by Thomas McConnell
Editor's note: Rather than cover it ourselves we asked Paul McCartney superfan Thomas McConnell (who's own, quality McCartney-esque tunes you can check out here) to review Sir Paul's latest release "New". Here's what he had to say:
I’ve had a mad few weeks where Paul McCartney is concerned.
I covered his song “New” the day it came out (youtube link here) and it ended up being shared on
Paul’s official web pages. Then, amazingly I got to ask the man himself a question at his recent and fantastic BBC Radio 6 gig/Q&A only for him to actually recognize me. So, when I was first asked by the Active Listener to review his new album my initial thoughts were… “due to recent events I don’t think there’s ever been an album release that’s more relevant and exciting for me”, “I’ve never written a review before” and “I’m a huge, huge, HUGE Paul fan so this will be the most biased review ever”, so I’d like to think of this as more of a musician/fan’s analysis of the album and “it goes a little something like this…”
Last week Paul McCartney released his 16th solo album (his 50th including Beatles, Wings, Fireman, Electronic, and Classical LPs) simply titled, “New”.
The album is the first album solely accredited to him since 2007’s “Memory Almost Full”.
It opens up with a track called “Save Us” which is a typical, catchy, post-“Driving Rain” style, Paul rocker. It’s sort of in the vein of “Memory Almost Full”s, “Only Mama Knows” but it surprised me that it was more piano based after hearing a live version where it was more guitar orientated. The piano gives it a cool, manic, dance sort of quality which is all over this record. He’s clearly been listening to modern music a lot.
A few songs have Coldplay style rising “Whoa oah oahs” and even though I can make comparisons to previous works like the “Pretty Little Head”-esque “Appreciate”, “Looking At Her” which could be from “London Town”, “I Can Bet”: “Let Me Roll It” part 2, “Queenie Eye” sounds like his take on “Hey Bulldog” - the fact that they’re all going through this modern, electronic filter makes something fresh for him and could signify he’s got a few MGMT, Gorillaz and other “trendy” records on his shelves. In a recent twitter Q&A when asked what album’s he’d bought recently his response was “The last albums I bought were by Kanye West, The National, The Civil Wars and Jay Z” and his choice of producers show that he’s still got his finger on the pulse (more than me, I’m only 20 and don’t own any of those albums…).
The album was produced by Giles Martin, Paul Epworth, Ethan Johns and Mark Ronson and after watching Paul state in interviews that he was initially worried that it might sound too disparate, I’d like to say he’s got nothing to worry about. It all fits together snugly in the way that "Ram" does. Some of the producers’ characteristics show through just the right amount too. One thing I noticed is that the horns on the title track are very Ronson. Now even though many comparisons to The Beatles have been made with this song (I’d like to point out that the Beatles songs that it has been compared to are other songs Paul has written so I’d just say it was a typical Paul song instead of using a rather lazy comparison), horns on Beatles songs were usually quite round and open sounding e.g. on Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, Hey Jude whereas the horns on “New” are muted and jazzy and that makes me think that was definitely Mark Ronson’s suggestion considering his work with Amy Winehouse and his own records.
A lot of the lyrical content is clearly inspired by his recent marriage to Nancy Shevell especially in the hidden song, “Scared” which is a haunting track where he admits his fear of saying “I love you”. I Imagine a statement like that may mean something very different to someone who’s been told “I love you” by millions of fans for 51 years.
I love the lyrics to “Alligator” too which are based on a very simple idea but I really like it when instead of referring to his woes as “problems” he calls them “alligators” (gonna have to nick that one…).
I think the lyrics to “On My Way To Work” are a bit "Lovely Rita"-esque - tongue-in-cheek too, especially the bit about the girl in the magazine from Chichester.
His old group are also scrutinized on the track “Early Days” where he mentions stories of him and John walking around “dressed in black with two guitars across our backs” and he is uncharacteristically open about his insecurities of public perceptions of him “now everybody seems to have their own opinion, on who did this that and who did that. But as for me I don’t see how they can remember when they weren’t where it was at”. I think the fact that this is one of the only tracks on the album where his voice isn’t covered in effects helps drive the point home. He sounds like an older guy on this particular track whereas I don’t think he does on any of the others. I don’t think I can express how much this man’s music means to me in words and how much it’s inspired me and got me through certain “patches”, so it’s quite emotional to hear his voice like that when you compare it to, “Oh Darling!”, “The Night Before” and “Oh Woman, Oh Why” but it’s still great. He’s always had loads of different voices, the rocky one (“Helter Skelter”), the soft one (“I Will”), the subtle gritty one (“She’s A Woman”), the falsetto one (“So Bad”), the pure pop one (“Hello Goodbye”), the Little Richard one (“Long Tall Sally”) and the booming bass-y one (“Lady Madonna”). This is something no other singer has ever done and this track is just a new one for his vocal collection - it’s a comforting voice that I’m very glad is still here.
Available on vinyl here, CD here, and digitally here.