It’s ironic that Paul McCartney’s latest studio album is titled “New,” because the whole album is a reach for the past dipped in the musical tones of the modern age.
If you were to strip away the sounds of electronica, the extra instruments and beats, I have little doubt this album would stand out as McCartney’s crowning post-Beatles jewel.
Instead, it comes across as trying too hard to modernize a classic simple sound that would have served “New” much better.
Although the album’s titular track will most likely see the most radio play, being in the typical McCartney upbeat pop mold, the highlight of “New” is it’s fifth track, “Early Days.”
A story of his time with The Beatles and their influence in pop culture even today, “Early Days” manages to elicit an emotional feel as McCartney reminisces all while forming a ballad that stands out musically and lyrically with lines like “now everybody seems to have there 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.“
The title track, “New,” follows up this powerful emotional center of the album with a song that could almost be confused for “Penny Lane.” Catchy, poppy and upbeat “New” is simply a tune that makes you want to tap your feet and smile.
But as soon as you come out of the highs of the fifth and sixth track you are brought crashing down to earth with “Appreciate.”
Easily the lowlight of the album, “Appreciate” tries so hard but in the end falls flat on it’s attempt. Instead of coming across as moody and dark, it just ends up sounding like something that Dire Straits would put as a throwaway track on one of their records.
McCartney’s love for his new wife, Nancy Shevell, is a key focus throughout, with songs like “Alligator” and “Save Us” early on showing the happiness associated with this new relationship.
But it isn’t until the album’s finale, simply titled “Road,” that you understand the true meaning of the relationship to McCartney. He puts his heart and soul into the lyrics of this song and you can feel the pain McCartney went through and how Shevell helped bring him out of it.
Admittedly, the album still has its standout tracks and is generally a fun listen, but misses out on the potential to be truly great by over complicating a formula McCartney had previously perfected.