Review Summary: I used to get stoned.
If ever there were an artist who is physically incapable of adding to his legacy, it would have to be Paul McCartney. Ex-Beatle, frontman and chief songwriter of another popular 70s band, proficient and highly successful solo artist (the best solo career of all the Beatles, despite what many will tell you)...this man has worked with the best of the best and has the success to show for it. And yet despite his legacy having been carved in stone, the man still releases albums every few years or so to prove that he's still alive, that he's still "hip and with it". The latter part of this statement is a shame, because when Macca isn't releasing albums just to prove he has a pulse on modern music, he can make genuinely great music. Flaming Pie
and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
serve as relatively recent examples of his pure songwriting ability surviving into his older years.
Unlike much of his previous album NEW
, Egypt Station
doesn't typically drown in its own attempts to modernize Paul's sound. Granted, this album did bring us "Fuh You", a career lowlight which boasts a dime store version of Imagine Dragons-lite production (courtesy of OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder), but thankfully this track is most definitely the exception and not the mean. The rest of the material generally consists of Macca trying to capture the softer parts of his mid-2000s records mixed with some bizarre attempts at experimentation. I say these attempts are "bizarre" because they never feel like the idea Paul had in mind for that experimentation was completely realized. The two "Station" interlude tracks don't seem to serve any purpose other than giving the album perceived importance
, and there are a couple of attempts at writing lengthy "epics" towards the latter half of the album which lope along without going much of anywhere.
The best moments on Egypt Station
are where Macca lays himself out in a very open, honest fashion, both lyrically and musically. Lead single "I Don't Know" is arguably his best song of the decade for exactly that reason, as Paul laments a negative situation of some seriousness in an unusually frank way for him. "Happy with You" may have relatively childish lyrics, but that's part of the charm; it's an innocent song that doesn't pretend to be anything but, and musically it recalls some of the very best songs on Flaming Pie
. But these moments are just not numerous enough to overcome the general messiness of this album. It's a frustrating record for a McCartney fan such as myself because it's evident that there's a very good record lying somewhere in these fragmented ideas, milquetoast production and rudimentary lyrics (we could acknowledge the weak vocals as well, but that's to be expected with the 76 year-old McCartney at this point so I say let's cut him some slack). Instead, we're left with an album that's impressively unsatisfying to listen to, and as someone who knows that Paul's not getting any younger, I sincerely hope this is not the note he ends up finishing his career on.