Paul McCartney’s new album “NEW” is his sixteenth solo studio release and his first album of new material in six years. This release sees McCartney trying different things and experimenting a lot more than he has done in recent years both in terms of the recording of the album, as well as the overall sound. What is different about this album is that McCartney used four different producers to help him produce this record, after he initially set out to trial his favourite producers before eventually deciding to use them all. Giles Martin (son of George), Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns, and Paul Epworth all appear on this record helping Paul behind the mixing desk, with their presence being highly noticeable and having a significant impact in the creation of the overall feel and sound of the album.
“NEW” musically speaking is very varied and probably represents McCartney’s most diverse release in years. Although many of the tracks retain a pop/rock feel to them, some of the recordings are not typical of the traditional pop/rock style that has served McCartney well as a solo artist over the years, a style which instead has largely been replaced with a noticeably strong electronic pop sound and some unusual arrangements as well. The presence of four of the best producers in the business has also ensured that all the material whatever the style has a contemporary slickness to it and a heavily produced feel.
As for the material itself, well the album begins with a full on pop-rocker called “Save Us” which contains some Queen-inspired backing vocals in the chorus in what is a highly charged ferocious start to the album. This is followed by the alternative pop of “Alligator” and “On My Way to Work”, both of which are largely in the traditional McCartney mould all be it with a bit of contemporary pop production to spice things up. “Queenie Eye” is another stomping pop-rocker with a very catchy chorus, while “Early Days” an acoustic folk number is one of Paul’s best songs in recent years and captures him in a tender reflective mood as he sings about the pre-Beatle days and in particular his friendship with John Lennon. This is followed by title track “New” which is probably the most Beatles-sounding song on the album, with its psychedelic pop feel resembling “Got to Get You into My Life” and “Penny Lane”. This is definitely one of the standout songs on the album and captures Paul having fun musically with a brilliant acapella doo wop vocal outro. At the latter end of the record Paul returns to the guitar pop/rock which he is most familiar with in the form of “Everybody Out There” and “I Can Bet”, before he really begins to experiment with a more electronic pop sound. Songs such as “Appreciate”, “Road”, and “Looking at Her” are very adventurous in terms of their arrangements and overly produced electronic sound, but unfortunately it is here where this album falls down and begins to lag. I am sure he had the right intent and I applaud him for experimenting and trying new things, but these songs to me represent a bit of a bore considering some of the quality that appears on the first half of the album.
In conclusion then, overall I would say that this album represents a pretty ambitious offering from Paul and I compliment him for mixing it up stylistically when other established acts of a similar ilk would be more likely to stick with a tried and tested formula at this stage of their career. Although the injection of electronic and contemporary pop influences offer mixed results, there are definitely a few songs on here that show Paul at his strongest musically and represent some of his best work in years. Considering he is still recording and touring at age 71, as well as the fact that his last record was an indifferent collection of old standards this album is a pretty good effort. Paul’s attempt on “NEW” to rework his sound to suit a more modern audience, while also his decision to experiment with some more modern influences shows he at least still has plenty of musical ideas to play with, not to mention the energy and desire to turn those ideas into a reality, something that I applaud and marvel at.