Paul McCartney Dispels Doubters With A Catchy Set of 'New' Songs
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 21:10
I feel the need to start this review off with a confession: I have never been a huge fan of The Beatles. I mean, I get it—as my history of rock and roll professor put it, “their influence on modern pop cannot be overstated.” The Beatles have one of the most interesting and diverse catalogs of any musicians and their melodies and songs seem to be ingrained in our conscience before we are even born. But after a hard day of classes, they are not what I turn on. What can I say? It is an affliction I inherited from my father. I am taking pills for it.
The Beatles songs I do like, however, such as “Here Comes the Sun” and “Let it Be” were primarily written by George Harrison. Therefore, I was wary of reviewing New, the latest record from The Beatles’ primary songwriter, Paul McCartney. I was fearful of the backlash that might come flying at me, like the pencil cases did in sixth grade science class when I revealed my less-than-ecstatic opinion of one of the world’s greatest bands. But here it goes.
I liked it. The title suggests that McCartney would be trying a “new” style of music. And on some songs that is true, like on the middle track “Appreciate,” where the production seems to be ripped straight from the Frank Ocean or Miguel playbook, as his vocals are drenched in blank-tape-sounding fuse that The Strokes popularized and every hipster band uses. It is not done poorly—in fact, it’s one of the better uses of the production technique that I’ve listened to. It is just strange coming from a man that I never thought I would hear it from.
In the first half of the album, it seems that McCartney is switching back and forth with each song from the “new” McCartney on this record and the “old” one of The Beatles. On the first track, he uses the new style of production described in the previous track. Then on the following song, “Alligator,” he brings back The Beatles’s signature guitar, and in the bridge he borrows from contemporary and fellow musical master, Brian Wilson, where he uses the psychedelic sounds that made him and John Lennon cry when they first heard Pet Sounds.
Not only does McCartney borrow the psychedelic sounds of Pet Sounds, but he also adds the introspective lyrics that always seemed to be missing on Beatles’ albums. The most touching use of the introspective lyric style comes on the song, “Early Days,” which is about exactly what it sounds like, the early days of The Beatles. It’s a rare view of his experiences during that time, as he sings, “Dressed in black from head to toe / Two guitars across our backs / We would walk the city roads / Seeking someone who would listen to the music / That we were writing down at home.” It is a thrill to just imagine Lennon and McCartney before anyone knew their names.
The music might seem disjointed, as he slips in and out of the new and old musical styles, but the album hits its stride musically in the second half, where he seems to merge this new style of music that he is trying out with everything The Beatles ever did. On “Hosanna” he merges the darkness of “Eleanor Rigby” with the eastern influences that were present on songs like “Across the Universe,” while still adding tinges of electronica, which he plays with on the 11th track, “Looking at Her.”
On the same track, McCartney shows off the talent that made The Beatles able to write a great love song. He sings about his new wife, saying that she is “good, she’s kind, she’s so refined” and that what she does is “like trying to catch the sun on the water.” It sounds incredibly cheesy, but McCartney sings it with such sincerity that one can’t help but swoon.
McCartney’s new wife’s inspiration is all over the new record, as almost every song is a love song. The album culminates in “New,” which recalls the bouncy melody of “All You Need is Love” and could soften even the hardest Beatles critics. Yeah, I liked it, just don’t tell my father.