Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Consumer Warning: A long, rambling album revue lurks below. You've been warned.
Singing The Changes...
...and listening to the changes he's sung...

'What's THAT about?', you ask...it turns out that "Sing The Changes" is a song on the new album by The Fireman (Paul McCartney and 'Youth'). The title is "ELECTRIC ARGUMENTS" (not 'electronic' as I previously posted). I will say this right off...if it's 'marketable' Paul McCartney that you're after, this album's probably not for you. I believe the gentleman who bills himself as 'Youth' is a Current Big Producer, but I'm also not surprised that I've never heard of him, since I just don't run across the opportunity to listen to a lot of new music these days. Does that make me ignorant? I'd like to think that there's just so much new music out there, it's hard to keep up with it all. Especially since I've been immersing myself in pre-rock and roll music lately, but that's a subject for another post, another time.

That doesn't mean I don't like what current music I hear; quite the contrary, there's an alternative-rock station in my neck of the woods, and for the most part, I like what I hear, although the damn station never says WHO THE ARTIST is. And I'd really like them to tell me! So you could play me some modern songs, and I might say, "oh, yeah, I've heard that before", but I couldn't begin to guess who did the song...anyway, back to the album I'm writing about: This newest "Fireman" album reminds me of his (McCartney's) 2002 album, "Driving Rain", in that the ballads seem a little fractured; the louder music exhibits a certain "offhanded streak of panache", and phased vocals and various rhythmic approaches dominate the sonic landscape. Throughout this album, I can hear a sort-of 'industrial'-type sound; harsh, 'out there' and Just Kinda Strange.

McCartney, speaking of this album, said he did it utilizing a fairly immediate process; he'd snatch a phrase from here, another phrase from there, then he'd knit all the various musical and lyrical pieces together, doing each song in a day's time, which is a lot faster than a whole lotta other artists record. So, as I listened to this album for the first time, I decided to keep that sort-of immediacy going, so here are my reactions to a lot of what's on this album; take it with a grain of salt, but it's at least a point to start from (Song titles included in "quotation marks" are from 'Electronic Arguments' unless otherwise specified)...

Cover art by McCartney. Thankfully he's better at creating music, huh?
In one of the album's tunes, "Light From The Lighthouse", I detect a real country-ish feel; almost gospelly-spiritual, in a way. It's a 2/4 toe-tapper, which reminds me more of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken", filtered through thousands of electronic gadgets. "Two Magpies" is an acoustic ballad that tells me one of two things: Either Paul's losing some of his vocal smoothness with age, or producer 'Youth' wanted to go for a really gritty feel. Nice ballad, but gosh, Paul's what, 66 now? I'm only 54 and I'm already losing some of my high register (not that I had that much to begin with). "Sun Is Shining" is an optimistic-sounding song, and the only thing differentiating this tune from Standard McCartney is the production of the track; echoey, sparse, but nonetheless, it's a tuneful track. "Highway" is a more-or-less straight-ahead rocker, while the album's leadoff track, "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight" definitely reminds me of "Helter Skelter" with a trickier time signature...
"Dance 'Til We're High" sounds initially like a re-written "Be My Baby" (The old Ronettes Record), in that both songs have the same rhythm kick, but really, this is a Pretty Good Paul McCartney song. As a matter of fact, it seems as if Paul's melodic muse has returned to him in quite strong fashion here; it's one of those melodies no one but Paul could've written. I think that people who've been initially repulsed by this album couldn't get past the first song, the aforementioned "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight", which IS a wild, coarse song, but after that, if you keep a really open mind, you can settle in for an hour's worth of some Pretty Good McCartney music.
Another 'Electronic Argument' track, "Lifelong Passion" has an exotic feel to it, sounding as if it were based on some monochromatically mystical Far East melody; these modal-type tunes tend to let the mind wander, and perhaps create its own melody, but...it doesn't sound that strange to me. Let me explain...I've always appreciated experimental music, as long as it didn't totally lose me. Early Pink Floyd music, for example, is just strange stuff, and it's up to the listener to Really Get Into The Music, because the music doesn't register instantly, unlike chart hits which are oh-so-ear-friendly-can't-get-it-outta-my-mind type compositions.
I suspect this is the kind of album that will only improve as I hear it more. I appreciate the range of material, the willingness to experiment, but then again, I might come from a different place than a lot of today's audience. Maybe not. But there was a time when Hit Singles were not needed At All, and this newest 'Fireman/McCartney' album returns me to that frame of mind, to that time. This album makes me think of such obscure bands as Man and Barclay James Harvest, yet is firmly supplanted (in places) by a sort of heavy, funky techno-groove. Hybrid music, for sure. An absorbing combination of sounds here.
"Is This Love" actually reminds me of a Moody Blues album track, "Visions Of Paradise" from their 'In Search Of The Lost Chord' album from 1968. "Is This Love" features hushed harmony vocals and quiet, lush instrumentation in a sort-of Far Eastern musical dreamscape. While I love the good ol' oldies, and bright, sunny, marketable pop, a side of me has always loved the more obscure side of things; I've always craved a balance between Music and Lyrics, and I've always liked music with a sort-of 'dark' edge to it, which is probably why I became a big U2 fan; their music is so darkly organic, and yet it packs a punch. And if I had to give this 'Fireman/McCartney' a one-word description, 'dark' would come awfully close.

I'll just bet McCartney's thinking, "this album's gonna surprise a lot of people." And it has, and it will.

"Lovers In A Dream" might sound like a self-indulgence (indeed, it might be just that), as it repeats the title phrase over and over, but you've gotta remember that many early psychedelic bands used the very same technique, going for a kind of 'hypnosis' based upon repeated mantra-style phrases. I know that sounds awfully analytical, but honestly, I've heard a lot of music like this down through the years. So while this album may be a real departure from what Macca's recorded before, it's not that 'waaaay out there'. It's a McCartney album that goes in a slightly different direction, 'tis all. "Universal Here, Everlasting Love" is yet another sound experiment, this time, modal in nature, with sound experiments that crossfade into a driving 4/4 rhythm that would be great music for a James Bond Car Chase; it's adventurous in that manner.

"Don't Stop Running", the album's ten-minute closing track, is very abstract, very lush, and it moves at a medium-heavy tempo, and this is where McCartney really gets into the 'Electronica' 'Dance' thing that seems to be so popular these days. Yes, this track is self-indulgent, but consider that there's a lot of songs on this album that came before this one. As a matter of fact, the last three tracks on this album, concluding with 'Don't Stop Running', do really seem to come from a space deep within. This is the kind of mind-music that will be interpreted differently by everyone who hears it, and they'll all be right, at least to a degree.

This is NOT a perfect album, and it's not for everyone. I've listened to Paul McCartney make so much Pure Pop music over the years, that I am surprised by this album, in that, I didn't know he had it in him to make such a "mental"-type of album. Parts of this album seem to come from a place deep within, and it's Really Interesting to know that McCartney actually gets into what I term, 'Progressive Rock' music. Then again, McCartney listened to a lot of classical composers in the years following The Beatles' departure from the stage into the realm of ultra-melodic studio-style music (Referring to the 'Strawberry Fields'/'Penny Lane' period), and maybe he was waiting for the right time to release something like this new album. It's quirky, yeah, but it's also intriguing. Very intriguing.

I'm very pleased McCartney released something like this. While he Obviously Doesn't Need My Money, I'm glad I bought this. A good value, too. It contains over 75 minutes of music, of which I'm sure everyone would like at least half of. This one'll surely grow on ya.


Blogger Silver Valley Girl said...

Thanks for the review. I sounded so interesting that I downloaded it on itunes and have really enjoyed the album. Thanks for the recommendation. Happy Thanksgiving!!

P.S. If you go to my blog and see yesterday's post about the blog regarding Govenor Stuenenberg, if you scroll down far enough, you'll see a picture of Lee Morse, the lady singer you enjoy. Here I had never heard of her, and now I've seen her on two different blogs. Thought you might be interested.

11:45 AM  
Blogger some guy who blogs said...

Hi, SVgirl...I did go tothe website you suggested and saw Miss Morse's pictures...I and a small group of others on the 'net are trying to get her all the exposure we can, since she was so wonderfully talented, yet ended up virtually forgotten.

I'm glad that my review actually Made Sense; I tend to overanalyze everything. But, I was really intrigued by this Macca (McCartney) album, and I've always liked to share music with others. Maybe my review will help sell more McCartney albums...as if he needs the money, ha ha...

6:16 PM  

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