Lifetime musings from a not- so- boyish Paul
WHEN things aren’t going well personally, Paul McCartney does what he has always done: he works. Whether or not you buy the idea that artists are at their best when suffering, there is no doubt Memory Almost Full contains some of the best crafted, most intelligent music McCartney has produced in decades. That’s not to say it’s wall- to- wall genius. There’s a thing McCartney is still blind to after all these years. He kind of snivels into the microphone, not realising he has no song, then develops and produces it until the absence of an idea is all but covered up. But of course it’s a house of cards that collapses on the listener. Good examples are From a Lover to a Friend on Driving Rain ( 2001), and You Tell Me on this album. But the climax of this CD, where four songs run into each other without much of a break, is stunning. In a sense the four are stronger for not trying to be anything like the medley on Abbey Road , with which they will inevitably be compared. That Was Me is a thumping classic built on a bass riff that swings wildly, with clever lyrics about trying to comprehend the whole of a long, eventful life. Before it exhausts itself, in a heartbeat we’re back in the classroom with young Paul for Feet in the Clouds , which expands from its humble Every Night origins to incorporate a processed vocal choir over a mean harpsichord. House of Wax follows with blazing guitar solos and rich orchestration over a strong, slightly scary piano ballad. End of the End completes the little cycle of looking back, this time speculating about what should happen on the day McCartney dies: ‘‘ I’d like bells to be rung, and songs that were sung to be hung out like blankets.’’ A swan song? Probably not. The orchestral fade gives way to Nod Your Head , in which Helter Skelter meets Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.