Monday, January 11, 2021

McCartney III review

Paul McCartney is in one of the most unique spheres of influence in the modern music age. In such rarefied air is he, with such an overreaching influence on pop culture and musicians that terms like icon and legend can turn into overwritten pablum. 

But what else can be said about such a versatile multi-instrumentalist and incomparably prolific songwriter? And yet, McCartney does not rest on his laurels once in the forty minute plus runtime of McCartney III, the next (and possibly final) entry in a trilogy of homemade albums in which the Liverpudlian plays all of the instruments. The playfulness, excitement and infectious boyish energy that permeates through all his work (from Wings to that other impermeable band that I will try not to overemphasize) is still ever present on this 2020 album.

The album opens vibrantly with the predominantly buoyant instrumental “Long Tailed Bird” (a snippet reprise of this acoustic number is also the intro to the final song). The second track, “Find My Way”, may be the closest to pop the album gets, reminiscent of his latest forays into mainstream pop that were found on his last release, “Egypt Station”. For the most part this homegrown batch of songs stays in the trusted lane of rock n’ roll. “Slidin” demonstrates McCartney’s deft touch at song writing for a modern audience (lest we forget his contribution to the Kanye/Rihanna hit FiveFourSeconds) with a production that sounds like it could have been released by The Black Keys or Foo Fighters.

In many ways 2020 has been the perfect year for McCartney to release this album. Following in the tracks of the first McCartney instalment in 1970 (which was also the first album of his solo career), isolation and solitude are important components to this series of records. While the first McCartney album was created in a time of despair and loneliness after the breakup of his former band and alienation with his bandmates, in this instance a global pandemic has played its part in stemming Macca’s energy. Creativity in solitude can bring with it great artistic freedoms and adventurousness as well as revealing inner angst and pain (both are prevalent on McCartney III). The longest and possibly most experimental track on offer, “Deep Deep Feeling”, sums up the dilemma of feeling these deep emotions; “sometimes I wish it would stay, sometimes I wish it would go away… emotion.” It is a track that, despite its eight and half minute runtime, does not outstay it’s welcome thanks to a hypnotic, beautiful structure and vibrant use of tape loops. This kind of approach is to be expected; McCartney was often touted as the bandleader and creative workhorse of that “other” band (we will get there soon).

Even a song like “Lavatory Lil” (a long-lost relative of “Polythene Pam”?), which contains the kind of cloying cutesy attitude that McCartney’s detractors accuse him of, has an ineffable charm that is hard to deny. Indeed, it is hard to deny the enthusiasm and energy that oozes out of this album. McCartney is clearly having fun with this project and his prowess as a multi-instrumentalist is still incredible (the album notes that he plays over twelve instruments here!).

The album concludes with the wonderfully bucolic “When Winter Comes”, which echoes the country lifestyle that emanated from the “Ram” project (incidentally this song was first recorded years ago with the late producer Sir George Martin, adding a sentimental edge to the track). The influence and reach of this trilogy of albums can still be seen even today with the similarly Lo-Fi approach of Taylor Swift’s “Folklore”. The fact that McCartney can still produce such great, inspired content so long after his Beatles prowess (it had to be said) proves that this music will continue to be influential for generations to come.  

Josh Lambie
insta: jlamb325
Image: Rolling Stone Credit:Mary McCartney

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