Paul McCartney’s “New” Reviewed
It’s not that solo album #43, 2014’s New is a bad album but, that much like Paul McCartney himself there is too much of it. Look at it this way: the Deluxe Edition of New is 52 minutes long. Debatably the greatest album of all time, The Beatles’ Revolver, is 34 minutes in length. Of the 34 minutes maybe twelve of them were written by Paul McCartney. If all it took from McCartney was twelve minutes of music to write the greatest album of all time, why on earth is he putting us through nearly an hour on New? You know he can’t sustain, he can’t, he doesn’t on his latest either, he just goes on an on and on.
New isn’t terrible, sure the constant nostalgia is a drag, sure once you get past “Queenie Eye” to the for fuck’s sake Paul, we got the point, you were pals, you played music, back in the early days, you were there. We do get it. We appreciate it. When you are dead and gone we will sprinkle the embers of the Beatles all over your solo career. But at some point in your life it is unbecoming to keep on harping on it, many people suffer from nostalgia, and even in his 20s McCartney was looking back, we get it. That still doesn’t excuse “Early Days” on New. A nice vocal performance moored in a swamp of pathos. McCartney is a genius. I know he is, you know he is, he certainly knows he is, but “Early Days” isn’t genius. Nothing on New is genius. At its best, the title track, maybe “Save Us,” are OK though not much by his standards. The rest of New, produced in thrall by Giles Martin, Paul Epworth, Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns -both Giles and Ethan are second generation Beatle guys standing in for their fathers, do nothing to upset him and why should they, right? McCartney in his twilight is still capable of writing a McCartney song, just not a great McCartney song. So what works? “Save Us,” “Queenie Eye,” “New”, and set closer on the deluxe “Get Me Out Of Here”. None of them are remotely great but even so.
When I first heard New I quite liked it, you know you get caught up in the hype, and Paul still has that voice, and, not unlike the old Frank Sinatra, his reflexes are good. Plus, after the career Paul had, even when he sucks it’s good to hear from him. But he overdoes it, he is still singing long after he should have taken a breather. So much of this is not good enough, It is like a steady downgrading from song to song “Appreciation” with its toothache hook is just a set up for the moribund “Hosanna”. The second half of the album is relentlessly equal parts clever and banal.
I just took a look at the reviews from four years ago, the living, breathing definition of wishful thinking. It is a craftsman trying to stretch and not really doing so because he suffers from the Costello problem: McCartney is too damn fussy and he lacks quality control. There is a reason he never plays all these albums live on stage… they don’t stand up.