After nearly 45 years as one of the biggest names in the music business, one would be forgiven if one were to pick up this album and just say, “Why?”. I mean, the man was half of the biggest songwriting team in the history of music, not to mention a performer with his band the Beatles.
As everyone knows, their sales records are staggering and the band continues to sell much merch even today. Then, the band broke up and McCartney started over with a couple solo albums before forming a band named Wings. Wings proceeded to become one of the biggest bands of the ’70’s, if not the biggest sales wise at least. Then, Wings broke up. McCartney said screw being with a band and decided to go forward with a solo career. Though he has faltered sales wise recently (what legendary artist from the ’60’s or ’70’s hasn’t) he started out of the gate with a passel of hit singles and albums. In between solo rock albums, McCartney started to compose classical pieces which received great acclaim as well as touring his ass off with Wings or solo for the past thirty years or so. Oh yeah, concurrent with all of his music activity (not to mention because of it) McCartney became one of the richest men in the world.
Why am I laundry-listing McCartney’s major accomplishments? To prove one thing: McCartney has NOTHING to prove. So, we come back to the questions of “Why?” Why does McCartney bother to release new music at this stage of his career? He has written bushels of songs which will live forever and sales records which will probably never be surpassed. You could be negative and wonder if McCartney’s just especially needy for the fame and adulation his career brings or simply immensely greedy, trying to acquire as much money as possible, especially since his marriage to the Devil’s tripod cost him a little ($50 million) bit of scratch.
Me, I take the other tack. In my mind the only logical explanation is that he simply cannot stop. As much of a jet setter and power player in business as he’s become, the man cannot stop having musical ideas and writing songs. Now, whether these latter-day songs are of any appreciable quality compared to his early work will be debated for decades to come, but something must be said for a man who is compelled and driven to keep working on what he loves, despite no longer having much of a need to actually do so monetarily or as far as his legacy goes. I mean, whether you are a Beatles fan of not, he could have died in that faux auto accident in 1967 like the clues said on those Beatles albums and he’d still be a legend today. What’s sad is that people keep knocking the man for continuing to pursue his muse. Music is possibly the only art form where people want artists to stop creating their art at a relatively young age. The beguiling and ever-more defiant McCartney refuses to fade away, as he has proved in the past and continues to prove with this new album he’s made under the guise of The Fireman with partner Youth.
The third of McCartney’s (so-far) Fireman Trilogy (the first had no vocals, the second had McCartney’s vocals buried in the mix, this one has McCartney’s vocals fairly front and center) of experimental music, this third CD under the moniker is the most accesible Fireman album to date and the closest one to a traditional McCartney solo album (McCartney plays all instruments, as he has done on all Fireman albums) as he has approached with this project. Originally conceived as just another way for McCartney to flex his musical muscles without being weighted down with the expectations of an album bearing his name, the Fireman project embraced loops, remixing, abstract sounds and other concepts foreign to what fans and musical pundits would expect from the McCartney’s usually more traditionally-based songwriting style. While most people have assumed Youth is the main cog here, taking songs and fragments of songs by McCartney and turning them into interesting soundscapes, one must not underestimate McCartney’s own involvement. It seems he is much more “present” than just handing Youth a bunch of leftover tracks and saying “let’s see what you can do with these”.
For one thing, McCartney has taken on more and more of a frontman role with each album, going from pure abstract sounds to having songs with vocals prominently featured. For example, the first Fireman disc was the same song remixied differently ten times or so. Now, on this third album, you have something more akin to McCartney and Youth’s version of Coldplay, minus Coldplay’s slicker elements. Songs are the thing here, for the most part, with some being commercial enough for radio (“Highway” and “Dance ‘Til We’re High” being two) while still being different enough from McCartney’s usual style to shock you. As I have said, whether this music is good enough to stand up to his best work will be debated forever, but to listen to this album and hear such vitality, energy, and willingness to discard his own inhibitions from a man who is 64 years old no less and accomplished fucking EVERYTHING AND MORE is very thrilling to behold. Even better: on this release he brings the ROCK! Yeah, I said it!
Will I be humming these songs on the way to work? Probably not. They most likely will not even make the radio as the songs are not sung by morally ravaged teens. But there is no doubt McCartney still has a lot to bring to the table musically and conceptually and this is a very exciting and interesting listening experience. Those who consider McCartney to be a stodgy has-been need to listen to this album and rethink the possibilites a what a wise old rock star with a few tricks left up his sleeve can offer. McCartney manages to continue a latter-day winning streak he began with the rejuvenating Run Devil Run. Buy this now.