You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that Paul McCartney last week released New, a “new” collection of songs.
He was everywhere — hosting live Twitter chats with fans, making the rounds in talk shows, giving interviews to countless magazines, and stopping traffic in Times Square to play a concert on a flatbed truck for a delighted lunchtime crowd.
And why wouldn’t he run around the globe crowing about his new work? After all, he might have made one of his strongest records in decades.
Macca chose four producers for the 14 songs on New. They are Paul Epworth, who produced Adele’s 21; Mark Ronson, known for his work with Amy Winehouse; Ethan Johns, an acoustic, folky musician who is Laura Marling’s producer; and Giles Martin, who worked on the Beatles’ Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas.
You would think too many cooks would spoil this broth. Instead, each one of them draws from a distinct chapter from McCartney’s voluminous songbook.
Whether your favorite period of Sir Paul is Beatles, Wings or even his ambient experimentations as Fireman, there is something you’ll love in this new collection.
“Queenie Eye” is a song about the game of life that references a schoolyard game Sir Paul played as a kid. “‘Queenie Eye, Queenie Eye, who’s got the ball? I haven’t got it, it isn’t in my pocket, O-U-T spells OUT! Someone stood with their back to the group and you had to approach gingerly, and if they looked around and saw you moving, you were out,” McCartney explained to The Guardian in the U.K.
The song is the daft country cousin to the daft “Uncle Albert,” while the infectious single “New” has the swingin’ sixties Englishness of “Penny Lane.”
Yet there are loops, orchestral flourishes, barbershop harmonies and ambient textures that make this utterly modern as well.
McCartney’s status as a newlywed (he married Nancy Shevell in 2011) creeps into the music as well. He takes a shot of Viagra for the rocker “Alligator” when he sings, “I want someone that can save me/when I come home from the zoo/I need someone who’s a sweet communicator that I can give my alligator to.”
He gushes about the new missus on “Looking at Her” when he sings, “She’s got everyone talking about her / she’s good / she’s fine / she’s so refined /but me?/I’m losing my mind.”
Memory Almost Full was Macca’s last batch of original songs from 2005, and it began this period of reflective sentimentality that continues on New.
On “Early Days,” he sings about hanging in record shops and walking the streets of Liverpool with “songs we wrote at home.” He also sets the record straight for all those folks that profess to be scholars on Beatles history.
“Everyone has their own opinion/on who did this and who did that/but as for me I can’t see how they can remember/when they weren’t where it’s at,” he sings.
McCartney’s voice has lost some of it’s sweetness over the years, cracking in spots. That works against him on a couple of the songs but on this particular track, the somewhat wobbly vocal is extremely moving as he recalls his youth.
Anyone who caught McCartney during his recent “Out There” tour knows that he is at the top of his game as a live act, routinely turning in three hour shows that run through his legendary songbook at a dizzying pace.
With New, the old master confirms that he is still setting a high standard for others to follow in the studio as well. To hear snippets of New, visit www.paulmccartney.com.
Here's the video for the first single, "New."