Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Paul McCartney is ‘New’ again

By Jackson Maxwell

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Even though he is one of the most celebrated, successful and innately talented songwriters the world has ever seen, one had to wonder whether Paul McCartney still had something relevant to say on “New,”  his 16th solo album. Of course, his 16 solo albums don’t include his numerous albums with the Wings, and that little project he had before, called the Beatles. But McCartney, wistfully defiant as always, proves all the doubters wrong on this new album.

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At 71, he sounds as fresh, original and as new as a songwriter a third of his age. “New,” released on Oct. 14, reaches back into McCartney’s old, immediately recognizable styles while simultaneously straying for modern production. The result is an album where McCartney stays true to himself and his artistic voice while creating music that fits perfectly well into 2013. The album’s only weak points are where McCartney becomes too preoccupied with sounding modern, toying with electronic instrumentation and looped vocals. But fortunately these occurrences are somewhat rare and spread out.

The album storms out of the gates with “Save Us.” A fast-paced, energetic song, it is filled with the kind of great hooks and charm that McCartney can write in his sleep at this point. “On My Way To Work” is the sort of impossibly perfect, sentimental, mid-tempo piece so familiar to anyone who knows McCartney’s music. Cheeky, smooth, but underlined with seriousness, the song demonstrates McCartney’s songwriting mastery.

Next up, “Queenie Eye” is more of the same. Buoyed by a jubilant, sing-along chorus, it exhibits McCartney’s seemingly inexhaustible energy. Then, without fanfare, the track abruptly changes into a quiet ballad. Over a whispery piano, Paul croons “it’s a long way to the finish/when you’ve never been before.” The section is simply breathtaking in its humble simplicity.

Now that the listener’s heart is melted, the achingly nostalgic “Early Days” will make sure it stays that way for at least four more minutes. The track is similar in tone to Ringo Starr’s recent track, “Liverpool 8.” But while Ringo’s ode to the early days of the Fab Four was so syrupy and clichéd that it drowned the listener, “Early Days” is stunningly heartfelt and emotional.

Over a lone acoustic guitar, McCartney begins with “they can’t take it from me if they tried/I lived through those early days.” Towards the end of the track McCartney’s tone changes from nostalgic to prideful; when he sings “Now everybody seems to have their own opinion/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.”

It actually makes one step back and think about the infinite amount of literature that’s been written about the Beatles, and consider that Paul is one of the two living people who really did know what happened. In that way, the song is one of the most powerful he has written in years.

The title track eases off the heaviness by simply functioning as a classic, lighthearted and blissful McCartney love song. But after this track, things start to slide a little. The fuzzy, electronic-infused “Appreciate” drags on without any real sense of momentum, while the simple “Everybody Out There” doesn’t really have a solid hook to carry its big ambitions.

“Hosanna” is a bit of an odd bird. Featuring beautiful acoustic playing, the song never really builds on the promise it shows in its beginning. The disco-indebted “I Can Bet,” “Looking At Her” and closer “Road” also don’t leave much of an impact. It is a somewhat underwhelming end to an album that begins in such incredibly strong fashion.

The first half of “New” is some of the best work McCartney has released in decades. As a songwriter, he is just as strong and innovative as he was 40 years ago. His voice is seemingly untouched by his advancing age, and can still carry virtually any melody with awe-inspiring ease. And it seems unlikely that he’ll stop anytime soon. In a recent interview with WRXT Chicago, McCartney said he will never retire. And indeed, “New” certainly makes the case quite often that McCartney, unbelievably enough, still has quite a bit of gas left in the tank.

Jackson Maxwell can be reached at [email protected]

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