IF YOU were one of the people responsible for the creation of modern pop music as we know it, and were responsible for some of the cornerstone songs known by the entire human race, you could be forgiven for resting on your laurels a little bit.
However, if you were Paul McCartney, you would attempt to reinvent yourself, well after you were 64, and keep on producing music as poppy and effective as ever before, as he has on his new release this week, entitled New.
It’s not as though McCartney has had a fallow moment through the last decade. From the Driving tour that kick-started his re-emergence as Most Beloved Beatle, he has had an eye on making himself relevant and relishing his elder statesman position.
With his frankly awesome backing band putting a fire under Beatles and Wings classics, allowing him to refurbish his back catalogue, McCartney has also been producing classical music, delivering impressive psych rock albums under the Fireman moniker with former U2 producer Youth, and appearing as part of Dave Grohl’s Sound City project as vocalist on a track that reunited Nirvana members Krist Nosovelic, Pat Smear and Grohl.
The release of eight albums in the last 10 years as well as touring have sharpened McCartney’s edge again, and New is another impressive attempt to stride forward in music.
Not that it could be anyone else at the helm on this record – it’s unmistakable Maccability is its first attraction. The propulsive opener Save Me, with piano and Cardigans-style guitar riffs comes together courtesy of McCartney’s phrasing and melodic genius.
Beatles-esque nostalgia comes to the fab fore in On My Way To Work, which recalls McCartney’s pre-Beatles employment as a delivery driver, and there is no getting away from the Liver legends any way you turn. Right up next is the rollicking Queenie Eye, hardly a nod to post-Oasis Liam Gallagher, but a good reminder who did it first, and best.
Working with four new producers here, including Mark Ronson (Amy Whitehouse), Ethan Johns (The Staves), Paul Epworth (Adele) and son of Sir George, Giles Martin (Kate Bush), has certainly brought out new textures to the tried and tested formulas, and the stand-out tracks like Appreciate, Looking At Her and Hosanna appeal most by virtue of their difference – sonically ambitious and texturally interesting, they sit well among the other, more expected and familiar McCartney tropes.
The most out-there track is the excellent closer, Road, a journey propelled by a fractured bass pattern and distorted vocals that suggest this is something genuinely brand new, a road to follow as the never-idle McCartney powers on into his 70s, an ambient rock achievement to end the record.
It might not be brand new New, but it’s an assured-as-ever collection that reminds us that McCartney is a true national treasure, and a constantly creative one at that.