Writing about Paul McCartney in an Observer Magazine article of a few weeks ago, it was observed how he is revered as an artist and performer around the world, and especially in the States, whereas here in his English homeland he is regarded as the annoying uncle who keeps turning up uninvited to the party, or an allusion very close to this. My wife recently commented in a far less scathing – quite endearing really – yet equally relative-related encapsulation that when a teenager she had always wanted Paul McCartney to be her boyfriend, but she would now quite like him to be her granddad.
It is quite shameful really to treat McCartney as that unwanted, or at the very least, simply tolerated metaphoric uncle when considering his historic contribution to popular music, especially [and fucking obviously] as a key songwriter of The Beatles. I’ll accept that some may not like The Beatles – though I really can’t understand this if you have any genuine liking of and appreciation for good music – but any belittling and simple sour denigration of McCartney as a musician is ludicrous.
This isn’t to say his latest album New is an exemplification of all that makes him rightly revered, wherever that may be, because it isn’t. By the exceptionally high standards we might expect of him, it does fall short, but that ‘descent’ is still so much more meaningful and acceptable than the drivel from more contemporary artists with which it competes.
The album is an unashamedly pop vehicle for Paul’s current songwriting journey and in this respect I find it easy enough to join the ride for all of its straight roads and cruising speeds. Songs like second Alligator and third On My Way To Work are rather twee delights that echo his pop proclivities of the significant past both musically and lyrically – playful and jolly – and fourth Queenie Eye reminds very much of his Wings days, and honestly and not one bit paradoxically these are not great songs affecting me greatly: but they are notably the work of McCartney and clever and well produced and effective. And I give him credit for that. What lifts me out of just respectful appreciation is listening to a song like fifth Early Days which I do believe is genuinely endearing as a classic McCartney song, and one where he takes risks in the falsetto singing, risks that reflect both a Beatles’ echo but also the fragility and even vulnerability of the voice today. The lyrics too speak out in a way I can respect, Paul putting right, to his mind, the criticisms he has had to endure over the years from those who preferred John to him [and this personality-battle was so much to do with fashion and inclination and even I readily accept how John was so much ‘cooler’ than the often seemingly arrogant and blander Paul] and also those who perhaps resent his success and establishment acceptance,
Now everybody seems to have their own opinion
Of who did this and who did that
But as for me I don’t see how they can remember
When they weren’t where it was at
The song is infused with nostalgia that is both warm and joyous but also defiant. It is beautiful too.
Of course sixth, title song New, is a Beatles number through and through and that for me is enough of a statement to affirm credibility and respect, even accepting, again, its poptunefulness!
In all, the album is actually quite eclectic, sometimes trying too hard to modernise and make the production reflect its contemporary awareness, and where it is blatantly nostalgic, my preference for this simply reflects my age and own wistful likings. In reality, this review is more a defence of McCartney’s right to be respected and indeed revered than attributing glowing accounts of this latest release from the great man. I don’t see him as an uncle nor want him to be my granddad and have never dreamed of him being my boyfriend. But in always feeling a part of a musical family inhabited by those with whom I have grown up and who had an impact on my aural joys over the years, Paul McCartney is surely an important member, though I don’t think he will be making my Christmas dinner this December.