Review Summary: Consistently better than McCartney's other solo work.
To be honest, when I saw that Paul McCartney signed to the new Starbucks record label, I got a little worried. I am opposed to Starbucks in general, and the fact that they have a record label astounds me. People in the café population are stereotypically indie snobs, yes, but coffee shops and record labels? It just does not mix in my mind, especially when Starbucks is not in it for making good music; they just want more publicity and money. However, I underestimated Paul McCartney. His solo career, all in all, falls short of his Beatles success or even the success of John Lennon’s solo career. Chances are, when he dies, no one will make any double-disc cover albums in his honor with the biggest names in music playing, and let’s not forget this. Paul McCartney is 64. Mick Jagger is 63, and it’s safe to say that his singing voice just isn’t the same anymore. Neither is Paul’s, but he embraces it and embellishes it with everything Starbucks can buy, including a mandolin.
The music video for “Dance Tonight” starts with McCartney receiving his mandolin, and as he begins to play it, the song kicks in full swing. McCartney’s mandolin chords are basic but well-played, and it opens the album with a fresh, unique sound from McCartney, equivalent to Harrison and his sitar. The lighthearted, happy mood of the song lets McCartney sing freely and easily, not putting too much strain on his voice. However, “Dance Tonight” is not much of an indication for the rest of Memory Almost Full. The mandolin fades away, not making a significant appearance on the rest of the album, and Memory Almost Full
becomes modern pop with a certain McCartney spin. At times, there are melodies and harmonizing techniques that are distinctly Beatles, and other times, it sounds completely fresh out of his catalogue. Songs like “Mister Bellamy” and “House of Wax” combine the modern with the old perfectly. The two songs switch feels constantly, from a beautiful brass ensemble to a piano-based groove to great guitar solos. The consistent change makes the songs feel bigger, better, and more epic even though they run at typical song lengths.
Not every song works, however. Memory Almost Full
is like McCartney mixing chemicals together, and of course, some reactions just don’t work. “Gratitude” is one of these, taking a typical McCartney chorus that blends in with the rest of the album, but the verses find McCartney overdoing and forcing his vocals. For just this moment on the album, his age starts to show. Mixed with the death march tempo, “Gratitude” is extremely boring. Most of the album’s other flaws come from lyrical flaws or musical annoyances. “Feet in the Clouds” finds McCartney saying “very” six times consecutively. Meanwhile, “That Was Me” sounds like Rick Rubin got a hold of the track and put a stereotypical, boring groove to it. This middle section of the album from “Gratitude” to “Feet in the Clouds” is easily the worst on the album. Luckily, “House of Wax”, arguably the best song on the album, saves it and brings the album into its concise closing statements. The beautiful “End of the End” finds McCartney contemplating death, a sign of certain maturity in him. Still, the short “Nod Your Head” is proof that McCartney surely has life left in him. He nearly screams the vocals with heavy distortion in the guitars.
Memory Almost Full
finds Paul McCartney throwing out relatively simple sketches and taking them to the studio. The production quality does most of the work here, because when you listen, everything seems relatively simple. And that’s not a bad thing by any means. He’s never been known to write the most complex music of all time, just simple, good songs. The difference between Memory Almost Full
and McCartney’s other solo work is that this is much more consistent and possesses songs that stand up to his best work.