Paul McCartney’s “Memory Almost Fun” Reviewed
Despite good reviews way back when, Paul McCartney’s first release for Starbuck’s short lived “Hear Music” label (remember that?) , hasn’t grown old with too much grace. Eleven years later, though composed and recorded before and after Chaos And Confusion In The Backyard, Chaos is much better, and memory, memory is a sad album, it is obsessed with time and not really the good old days, but rather the tiring now: the tick tock of the old clock, the lost lives, the ever present passed.
Solo album # 41, Memory Almost Full (an anagram of “for my soulmate LLM”), is downer, it is where aging is no longer vaudeville, McCartney had just turned 65 when it was released and that sound in the back of his head was the reality of the aging process. Perhaps the album disturbs me more now than it did then because now I m closer to 64 than 44. Aging is a joke, reaching of milestones are not a terrifying thin, till you begin that last third of your life, till you know it is over.
So this is McCartney, well he said “retrospective album” but really all his albums post Band On The Run (and excepting the classical stuff) have been retrospective. The strings on “Only Mama Knows” (a dreary horror of a song) is informed at its core by “Eleanor Rigby” without anything approaching the thrill of the new, the break into a rocker is a trope, the song is not well written. It is an old man’s records but it doesn’t own the past, it seems to be punishing itself on a tread meal of time losing. “Gratitude,”isn’t much, the title tells it all though the vocal is as great a l performance as McCartney has ever given, a melodic charter trip into rejuvenation through love, on a song not really worth the effort. The rasp in Paul’s voice, the edginess in his delivery, is closely at odds with his words. The song isn’t much but it isn’t a total disaster.
Memory Almost Full isn’t a total disaster, it opens with “Dance Tonight,” featuring Paul on Mandolin, and is pleasant enough, and the very next song, “Ever Present Past” is the best song on the album, cheerful and very depressing “I hope it isn’t too late, searching for the time that has gone too fast…” The hook is absolutely great, another form of ear candy that harks back to classic Beatles:
“The things I think I did
I did, I did, I did
The things I think I did
When I was a kid.”
This is half of the album in a nutshell, the looking past but less with nostalgia and more with the strain of pulling away from those days. Childhood is a constant theme for McCartney over the years, think of “Penny Lane,” but here it is emotional taffy, it is the string of time, not an elastic band, he unravels himself away from what once. was.
There is a shutting down here, and it would be five years till he released more new material with the superior New.
“That Was Me,” though not expressly about fame, is close to being about fame, it is close to Lennon’s baffled “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)”, Lennon does it as a tragedy, Paul as a rockabilly shuffle. That is it for the good stuff, produced by David Kahne, it was straightforward enough and with an eye closely on Paul’s voice, which is the album’s true saving grace. because there is nothing to like about “Mr. Bellamy” -about a cat stuck in a tree or a metaphor for his divorce that I can’t read, “Vintage Clothes,” where his age catches up to him, “House Of Wax” is apparently about fame but it is hard to read it. Given fame is a subject I am gagging to hear Paul discuss, it is a true bummer. “The End Of The End” is Paul considering his ever past past “the end of the end is the start of a journey to a much better place.” The whistling makes me wanna punch him in the nose. Apparently the last four song are a medley. Perhaps, but not on the version on Spotify.
Just not a good album, depressing in the extreme and with just about zero insight into growing old.