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Paul McCartney’s “Chaos And Creation In The Backyard” Reviewed

The default on Paul McCartneys #38th solo album, 2005’s Chaos And Creation In The Backyard is that using an outside producer did the trick, and for sure Nigel Godrich (Radiohead’s go to guy) at George Martin’s suggestion gave him a wider musical palette at least the electronic soundscape stuff. But if an outside producer was what mattered, how did David Kahne fail to fix Driving Rain? The truth is Chaos And Creation In The Backyard  contains some of McCartney’s best songs since forever.

It is worth copying this explanation of how Nigel and Macca worked together:

Upon being asked to produce an album with McCartney, Godrich admitted:

“My initial reaction was one of terror, not only because it’s a very important person, but I really wasn’t sure how willing he would be to get his hands dirty.”

The two tentatively began a collaboration, recording the songs “This Never Happened Before” and “Follow Me” which was enough to convince both of them that they could develop an album. Godrich’s participation was active: he inspired McCartney to write the song “At the Mercy”, added piano loops on “How Kind of You” and worked with McCartney to slow the tempo of “Riding to Vanity Fair” which McCartney says “changed the mood completely”.Although initially taken aback, McCartney appreciated Godrich’s tenacity and honesty.

According to McCartney, Godrich was at times blunt in his appraisal of McCartney’s songs-in-progress during the making of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard:

“Nigel… refused to allow me to sing songs that he didn’t like, which was very cheeky of him”

It is a very good album. There are many ace tracks and fewer than few dogs, and it is among McCartney’s best solo albums because it has the assuredness we expect from prime Paul: the album brims over with musical self-confidence whether it’s the George Harrison inspired “Friends To Go,” the flute post-psychedelic idyllic “English Tea,” the superb philosophical and also accurate “Fine Line,” the balladeering blues of “This Never Happened Before” with its deep bass notes… song after song works both big and small.

This isn’t a Pepper-y concept album, nothing connects the songs except a certain mature Paul vibe and quiet melancholia, Unlike the restless, overwhelmed by love, Driving Rain, Chaos isn’t even a McCartney primer, there are signature McCartney  songs but it doesn’t surround his career its specialness is its lack of specialness, the story lies elsewhere. It is a quiet album, full of hooks and subtle layers of feelings, And yet there is something happening here, and my impression is that this is McCartney’s Tunnel Of Love, barely concealed here is a terrible misgiving, , the best example is “Riding To Vanity Fair,” a song about a friendship breaking into two and McCartney, who defines sweetness, sounds solemn and a little cold. This uneasiness along with Nigel’s intense production, gives the album a sinking feeling and, with the exception Run Devil Run, it is the saddest album McCartney has made so far, and since it is all original composition there is nowhere to hide. From “Driving Rain” to “Too Much Rain,” McCartney can’t hide the four year retreat into his own personal hell.

Grade: A-

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