Life­time mus­ings from a not- so- boy­ish Paul

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

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.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

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