While it certainly doesn’t need to be stated anymore how much of a legend Paul McCartney is, that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. Paul’s latest offering is full of excited energy to be sure and hopeful messages, but he rarely brings the edge or distinct moments to make all this music memorable. Even as a true fan of decades of McCartney’s work, I found myself noting how directionless songs could feel at times. Though Paul’s brilliance shines through, it sounds like he could really become totally relevant again by focusing on singles rather than extended records.
With the deep emotion behind the slow intro of “I Don’t Know” it almost feels like “Opening Station” is just unnecessary preamble, that doesn’t even connect to the rest of the album. Luckily there’s enough of a depth to “I Don’t Know” to make up for this blander space, and as it quickly expands its arrangements and joy, you’ll find yourself pulled further into its world. Though McCartney seems to be balancing wholesome love stories with something oddly lewd on “Come On To Me,” his strongest tool ends up being his weird mixing. There’s a hopeful but somewhat lyrically stunted energy to “Happy With You” and its slow bleed of new arrangements takes a little too long for what the track needs.
Derivative as much of its initial moments feel, “Who Cares” hits enough of a strong classic rock energy to carry itself forward. Though it would be easy to call “Fuh You” an attempt to fit into modern pop, McCartney feels more relevant than he does dishonest in his writing. As straightforward as the writing itself is, there’s so much in the instrumentation and stunning production to make you forget about that. Brilliant as it is in the scope of its sound, there’s just not enough variation to the writing of “Confidante” to really keep it interesting however.
As you head into “People Want Peace” even Paul admits that we’ve already heard what he’s bringing said before, and while this does make the lyrical side of the track really feel too broad, he hits hard on the crisp keyboard notes. The sparse loops of “Hand In Hand” certainly demand a patience from listeners but one that it’s growing mix of woodwinds often helps balance out. Luckily McCartney starts to step away from these meandering tracks with “Dominoes” while bringing plenty of startling moments in his writing. Though this record repeats its cast of instruments and tones, it’s how Paul uses them that makes each track feel unique and fun.
Though “Back In Brazil” seems to run on an inherently exotic energy from its outset, it’s when it starts to lean into a strong mix of Western and Eastern tones that things become interesting. All the strange beats, wind instruments and unusual keyboards meld together as the band sings to elevate Paul’s own ecstatic feelings. This same majesty makes songs like “Do It Now” so massive in sound, but there’s just something missing to make the songs feel fresh. Even in taking older grooves for a ride, “Caesar Rock” sees McCartney letting his infectious personality take a song through the roof.
After its somewhat samey intro, “Despite Repeated Warnings” hits the medley-style writing that often makes Paul’s writing so fun. Going into a full Wings-style big band outro, the track sees McCartney pulling out a few big and powerfully cheesy moments to get fans excited. This same medley writing closes things out on a fiery note as “Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link” as he drifts through each of his various eras with a new found orchestral glory.
Words by Owen Maxwell