Seeing the Out There tour? Make sure you’ve heard New first!
New is, well…new. It came out fall 2013 to surprisingly good reviews for a McCartney solo work, and with good reason. While this eclectic album features many trademark McCartneyisms—beautifully narrated songs about love and memories contrasted with near-nonsense wordplay paired with a driving beat—it’s not the typical offering. A whopping four producers—Paul Epworth, Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns, and Giles Martin—put their own marks on these songs, giving us an album that jumps from rock to electronica to bare-bones folk. And like some of the best Beatles albums, the move between styles is jarring, yet just right. If you’re looking for one recent McCartney album to add to your collection, this is the one.
- “New“: It’s no wonder the album was named after this one. This fun, bouncy song is reminiscent of “Good Day Sunshine” and is pure Paul, blending Beatlesque melody, harmony, and the unbridled sense of optimism we’ve come to expect from him. I’m warning you now: this song GETS IN YOUR HEAD…but in a good way. I bet you can’t listen just once.
- “Early Days“: Storytelling at its best, about the one story only Paul can tell—his beginnings with John Lennon. Paul paints the picture so clearly you’re practically there, feeling the sense of possibility for the two young boys who looked for “someone who would listen to the music.” The reminiscence takes an interesting turn at the end, as Paul wonders why those who weren’t there with him are so sure of what happened—an interesting comment on the constant revisionist history surrounding his story. The production is unusually sparse, and at first, the sheer rawness caught me off guard. But after a few listens, producer Ethan Johns’ insistence that a rough rehearsal cut be used for the final perfectly evokes a sense of looking back over the decades.
- “Queenie Eye“: This song is FUN! Loosely based on a kids’ game of the same name, don’t expect the lyrics to make much sense at first (or maybe ever). But the beat and melody are absolutely infectious. This would be a joy to see live, especially if you know it well.
- “Save Us“: The song starts the album with a modern feel and a driving beat. It might be the least McCartney-sounding song on the album, and it wouldn’t be out of place done by most of today’s young guitar bands. For those who know the recent tour set lists, this is usually the second song (replacing “Jet”) and if you’re familiar with it, it will only enhance the opening of the concert.
- “On My Way to Work“: Another song evoking pre-Beatles Liverpool, when McCartney had a job as a “second man” on a truck. The rhythm of the song evokes the life of the working man, similar to the background sounds on Billy Joel’s “Allentown” (listen and see!). The job he writes about was taken between Hamburg trips with the Beatles, when the gigs were not flowing in. Given that context, the yearning in the song is almost palpable.
- Appreciate: This futuristic song has a quality of trance music—an interesting contrast between the previous song, “New,” and the next, the crowd-rousing “Everybody Out There.” The video, featuring Newman the Robot, is about as surreal as you can get.
Bottom Line: New is a great contrast of styles and moods, and is one of the best McCartney solo albums in a while. If you’re seeing Paul live this year, give it a few listens in advance so you can enjoy the new songs—they’re worth it!
Update: Paul is releasing an expanded version of New on October 28th. Check out the details here.