Six long years after the release of his last full album of original songs, Paul McCartney is back on form with his surprisingly diverse and current album New. Filled with well crafted songs from gentle piano ballads to grungy rockers, New is being hailed as one of Macca’s best solo albums in decades.
An undeniable part of New’s charm is the diversity of the songs. This is in no small part thanks to the contributions of four separate producers: Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Duran Duran), Paul Epworth (Adele), Ethan Johns (Laura Marling, Kings of Leon) and Giles Martin, son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin.
While the main musician on the album is Paul McCartney himself, he also drafted in his touring band to play on several of the tracks. Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, Abe Laboriel Jr and Paul “Wix” Wickens contributed to songs (though not all members play on each): Alligator, On My Way To Work, Early Days, New, Appreciate, Everybody Out There, I Can Bet, Looking At Her, Turned Out, and Get Me Out Of Here.
New sees McCartney covering new ground: He is modern and current while still holding on to his reflective, retro and somewhat eccentric roots. Here are my thoughts on the album track by track:
Save Us – The album bursts open with the heavy rocker Save Us. The track excitedly crashed forwards and Macca puts in a pretty decent vocal on this straightforwards out-and-out spiky rocker. Produced by Paul Epworth.
Alligator – Swiftly shuffling along, Alligator is a fast paced and darkly edgy acoustic based song. Featuring some cool instrumentation, Alligator drops off to a spacey mid section before the acoustic guitar reasserts itself along with some stabbing harpsichord. Produced by Mark Ronson.
On My Way To Work – A nicely descriptive acoustic based song, On My Way To Work describes the songs protagonists experience during his daily commute. Some short yet expertly positioned oriental sounding instrumental sections punctuate the song nicely. Produced by Giles Martin.
Queenie Eye – One of the most radio friendly songs on the album, Queenie Eye is a beautiful cacophony of retro and modern. Being selected as the albums second single, you can read my full review of the track here. Produced by Paul Epworth.
Early Days – A reflective acoustic song, Early Days sees Macca remeniscing about the early days of the Beatles. McCartney was originally reluctant to use the whistful and slightly flawed vocal track and rerecord it, however he was swayed to keep it as it fit the raw, honest and sincere feel of the song. Produced by Ethan Johns and Giles Martin.
New – The albums first single, New is a upbeat, uptempo piano rocker that only someone like Paul McCartney could get away with. You can read my full review of the track here. Produced by Mark Ronson.
Appreciate – One of the albums most unusual songs, Appreciate centers around a techno drum beat and a single chord swaying from major to minor. Macca’s high register vocal sets the song off nicely, and while it may not instantly gel with everyone, it’s definitely a grower. Produced by Giles Martin.
Everybody Out There – An urgent and drilling acoustic guitar riff opens the song which soon pans out to be a good audience participation song. With plenty of HEY‘s and OOOOOH‘s to join in with. Naming his tour after the anthemic song, Everybody Out There has McCartney’s family on backing vocals. Produced by Giles Martin.
Hosanna – A luscious and loved-up acoustic song, Hosanna primarily features a solo acoustic guitar, a padding string section and some brilliant harmonies. A highlight of the album. Produced by Ethan Johns.
I Can Bet – The single most radio friendly album on the album, I Can Bet confidently struts along like a Bee Gee’s song. Some nice electric piano work and tastily cheeky vocals give way to a unexpected yet surprisingly fantastic Moog synthesiser solo. While it should have been a single it turns out the be one of the best songs on the album. Produced by Giles Martin.
Looking At Her – Another somewhat different track on the album, Looking At Her is driven by a light, techno drum beat and a dreamily airy melody. Some heavier more guitar based sections break the song up slightly, keeping it from getting too one dimensional. Produced by Giles Martin.
Road – A nice enough track with some very cool, atmospheric sounds going on, Road is an odd selection to close the album. Despite the songs lack of memorability, the good instrumentation, lyrical twists and firey vocals more than make up for this. Produced by Paul Epworth.
Scared (hidden track) – While this classic McCartney piano ballad is tucked away several long seconds after Road has drawn to a conclusion, Scared is an undeniably grand, grown up and majestic decoration of love.
And so ends the standard edition of New. However there is also a deluxe edition which boasts (alongside a slightly different album cover) two bonus songs that didn’t make it onto the standard edition. Also note that on the deluxe edition the hidden track Scared is tacked onto the end of Get Me Out Of Here as opposed to Road.
Turned Out – A great, fast paced, free and easy acoustic song, Turned Out boasts some fun cigar box guitar and a euphoric vocal. A brilliant pop song, it breaks down to a short piano ballad section before hopping back into funky fun mode to round the song off. and Produced by Ethan Johns and Giles Martin.
Get Me Out Of Here – With Macca delivering a pseudo-American vocal drenched in a low-fi AM radio effect, Get Me Out Of Here is a surprisingly memorable cowboy-style back packing song that has song nice percussive elements to it. Produced by Giles Martin.
But there is even more! The Japanese edition of New has one extra bonus track that can’t be found on any other versions of the album:
Struggle – A very experimental track, Struggle is based around a harmonium riff. The weakest of all the bonus tracks, Struggle is still musically and lyrically interesting, and even features a preacher-esque spoken word section.
According to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) there were six additional titles that were licensed with work identification numbers close to those of the songs on New: Secret Life of a Party Girl, Build a Bridge, Demons Dance, Seventees With a Twist, Twas But a Dream and Hell To Pay. It is uncertain whether these songs will find their way to any future official release (if indeed they were recorded at all).
NOVEMBER 2014 UPDATE!! As McCartney readies the release of a collectors edition of New, two additional tracks have been included on the set:
Demons Dance – A jaunty tune played primarily on a warm, oak-y sounding piano, Demons Dance is a friendly and fun track. A couple of nicely funky piano breaks give way to excited backing vocals interjecting the song’s title into a great lead vocal performance.
Hell To Pay – One of the angriest sounding songs of the entire set, Hell To Pay rocks along, driven by vamped piano and thrashed guitars. The inclusion of synthesisers give the track an extra retro feel. Sounding like an amalgamation of 70s power rock crossed with Macca’s 60s roots, the fact that Hell To Pay was left off of the album is a bit of a head-scratcher.
There is something for everyone on this album. Electric rockers, piano ballads, acoustic ballads, progressive and experimental techno, a bit of everything. Which is what makes New so interesting. It’s not just a one dimensional effort, it has endless dimensions and sounds and the fact that Macca had four producers to vet his music really made him push the boundaries and once again become a current and relevant recording artist.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts on the songs or the album as a whole in the comments section below!
You can purchase both the standard and deluxe editions of New from both Amazon and iTunes, and be sure to check out Paul McCartney’s official website to keep up to date with all the latest news.