PAUL McCARTNEY – McCartney III (2020)
50 years following the release of his self-titled first solo album ‘McCartney I’ featuring Paul playing every instrument and writing and recording every song, and 1980’s ‘McCartney II’, Sir PAUL McCARTNEY releases ”McCartney III”, ready for the holidays.
Paul hadn’t planned to release an album in 2020, but in the isolation of ‘Rockdown,’ he soon found himself fleshing out some existing musical sketches and creating even more new ones. ‘McCartney III’ spans a vast and intimate range of modes and moods, as unexpected circumstances are turned into a personal snapshot of a timeless artist at a unique point in history.
This lockdown LP has his best songs in years…
While getting mixed reviews by confused critics, today, ‘McCartney’ and ‘McCartney II’ are two of the most revered albums in their author’s solo catalogue, moments where he temporarily forgot his commercial impulses – but not his innate gift for melody – and allowed his more experimental side free rein.
One school of thought has the ragged, home-recorded McCartney as the forebear of the alt-rock subgenre that came to be known as lo-fi; the synth-heavy McCartney II has been rediscovered by DJs and hailed as presaging electronic bedroom pop.
”McCartney III” was recorded in lockdown, with its author in charge of everything – and while I find a song like ‘Lavatory Lil’ weird and self-indulgent, the rest of the album finds Macca letting his guard down in far more appealing ways.
A certain freedom is evident in opener ‘Long Tailed Winter Bird’, a lovely instrumental that’s allowed far more room to breathe than you suspect McCartney in more commercially minded mood would permit. He might also have balked at releasing a song like ‘Slidin’ on the grounds that it was too obviously a homage to the Seventies rock, albeit one laced with an infectious sense that its author is having a high old time.
‘Deep Deep Feeling’, meanwhile, may be the best song to bear McCartney’s name in more than a decade. Its melodies slowly entwine and uncoil over eight minutes involving lengthy instrumental passages, falsetto vocals, shifts in tempo, a Mellotron-esque synth that recalls the opening of Strawberry Fields Forever (as with Winter Bird/When Winter Comes’ nod to the bucolic atmosphere of 1971’s Ram, it’s the kind of musical self-reference that never seems accidental on a McCartney album) and an acoustic coda.
The lyrical examination of emotional extremes feels authentically confessional. Similarly personal, if more oblique, ‘Pretty Boys’puts the audibly aged aspect of his voice to use, quaveringly describing its titular subject as “a line of bicycles for hire, objects of desire … a row of cottages for rent for your main event”.
It’s moving because he knows of what he speaks. This isn’t a superannuated rocker sneering at latter-day manufactured pop bands, but something fonder and more personal: a man knocking on 80 who was the subject of teen hysteria a lifetime ago, who gave up playing live because he couldn’t hear himself over the screaming.
‘Seize the Day’ features the prickly, defensive McCartney of Silly Love Songs – “it’s still all right to be nice,” he protests, a sentiment that gains heft in a world of snarling binary divisions – set to a melody that’s almost preposterously McCartney-esque, navigating its twists and turns without appearing to break a sweat.
There are moments of filler – ‘Deep Down’ vaguely R&B-ish groove rambles a little – but this is the most straightforwardly enjoyable and certainly the most personal McCartney album since 2005’s haunted, twilit Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.
As to whether it joins Volumes I and II in the pantheon of undisputed solo McCartney classics, time will tell: as the afterlife of its predecessors demonstrates, the future is hard to predict.
01 – Long Tailed Winter Bird
02 – Find My Way
03 – Pretty Boys
04 – Woman and Wives
05 – Lavatory Lil
06 – Deep Deep Feeling
07 – Slidin’
08 – The Kiss of Venus
09 – Seize the Day
10 – Deep Down
11 – Winter Bird / When Winter Comes