Written by Sonny Drake
McCartney’s career has always found him trying to negotiate between the poles of his love of experimentation and his innate crowd-pleasing tendencies. On NEW he makes his version of a modern pop album, or what a modern pop album made by a Beatle (he was in the Beatles you know) would sound like. While this sounds like it has the potential to become a cluster of embarrassment, it actually works more often than not. A major advantage is that the swing towards retro the pop world has been undergoing for a while now, means that he need not deviate too far from his previous work in order to create something that stands up in a contemporary setting (hell, listen to McCartney II and tell me that it couldn’t be mistaken for a hip new buzz band).
On opener ‘Save Us’, a propulsive Strokes-esque rock song, the album hits the ground running. Ostensibly a love song, its lyrics, such as “keep on sending your love/because in the heat of battle/you’ve got something that’ll save us” can just as easily be applied to the relationship between an artist and his fan base. It’s a two-way street, though, as, in particular on ‘Everybody Out There’ he openly writes with large crowds in mind. As ever McCartney is shamelessly populist, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that’s a bad thing.
The rest of the album finds McCartney mixing his patent earnest pop with the contemporary production offered by contributors Mark Ronson, Paul Epworth, Ethan Johns and Giles Martin amongst whom the production work on the album is divided up. A number of songs have a Beatles vibe, with harpsichords and horns that recall the band’s psychedelic mid-period. Considering that this is an album by one of the primary songwriters, with producers who grew up as huge fans of the band, this was always going to be inescapable.
Not all of the tracks work completely – the weirdly Kasabian-sounding ‘Appreciate’ sticks out in particular, but overall it’s a very fun piece of work. McCartney and the producers were obviously enjoying themselves, and that enjoyment comes across on the finished product.
It is a testament to McCartney’s love for music that he is still trying to make fun pop albums at a point in his career where no-one would blame him for sitting back and coasting on his legacy. Actually legacy, it appears, is something that troubles him. On the acoustic ‘Early Days’ he addresses head on the mythology surrounding the Beatles with the line “Now everybody seems to have their own opinions/who did this and who did that”, affirming that “They can’t take it from me if they tried.” Indeed much of his solo career has been overshadowed by the spectre of that band. In interviews he has often spoken about his desire to keep moving forwards and create different, new music, and if this album is any indication he’s still very much capable.Tweet