Published on October 3rd, 2018 | by voxx0
Paul McCartney – Egypt Station
He may be well into his eight decade, but Macca is currently on vintage form…
It’s 2018 and Paul McCartney still seems unduly concerned with being popular and creating great art. But then, who can blame him? No one negotiated those conflicting requirements as effortlessly as The Beatles, and 48 years after their dissolution, he’s no less willing to forsake one for the other. However, that was then. If Macca wants everyone to return him to the top of the charts, he has to hustle like it’s 1962. Hence a summer which has seen him escalate anticipation for his 25th post-Fabs opus by singing Beatles songs in a car with James Corden, playing tiny gigs in mythical locations (Abbey Road, The Cavern) and a frantic rise in Instagram activity.
But while McCartney can ramp up his profile, he doesn’t get to decide if his latest songs will be held in comparable regard to the standards he’s already given us. At some level, you suspect he knows it. “Did you ever get hurt by the words people say?” he asks on the affable chug-rock of ‘Who Cares’. The answer? “I do.” The good news is that he has little to fear. This is his most focused set since 2005’s excellent Chaos And Creation In The Backyard. For Egypt Station, he has fallen back on Hemingway’s edict that your foremost duty is to write the truest thing you know.
At its core, this is an album written with one misty eye on the hourglass. In fact, the finite nature of our time on Earth is all over Egypt Station. It’s there on the record’s big orchestral number ‘Do It Now’ and it’s also what drives ‘Dominoes’, which – along with a sonorous strummer called ‘Confidante’ – serves as a reminder that McCartney still knows how to tease out a juicy earworm when left alone in the studio. If you heard the first two songs to be released from the record, the affirmative power pop of ‘Come On To Me’ and the autumnal self-doubt of ‘I Don’t Know’, you’ll know that his melodic skills are still in fine fettle. So what lack is he trying to address by enlisting the services of OneRepublic hit-maker Ryan Tedder on ‘Fuh You’, a song which, at best, sounds like a cast-off by the band fun., with the extra awkwardness of the titular innuendo? By his own admission, he was trying to write a hit.
But of course, there’s more than one way to reflect the times, and the boldest song on Egypt Station does just that by different means. ‘Despite Repeated Warnings’ sounds like something you’d sooner expect to hear on a Neil Young album. Its metaphor – a ship’s captain overriding expert advice and navigating his vessel to certain doom – might as easily apply to Brexit as it does to Trump. What could have very easily sounded didactic or clumsy hits home, not least because the increasingly gnarled texture of McCartney’s voice reminds you that you’re listening to someone who was born into perilous times.
And, talking of the voice, therein also lies the other emotional pull exerted by Egypt Station. As long as McCartney is singing, you’re acutely aware that the greatest songwriter of his generation is over halfway through his eighth decade. Through the years, we’ve seen ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ assume a pathos even their creator couldn’t have foreseen. We won’t have to wait that long to feel that way about the most affecting moments on Egypt Station. The fact that the young dad on the sleeve of solo debut McCartney is now 76 freights a dewy acoustic checklist of wonder called ‘Happy With You’ and the hymnal intimacies of ‘Hand In Hand’ with unavoidable poignancy.
He’s enjoying his music far too much to stop now, and so, for that matter, are we.
- By Jake White