Review: Paul McCartney — Egypt Station

Category:  The Arts
Thursday, September 13th, 2018 at 1:21 PM
Review: Paul McCartney — Egypt Station by Livia Homerski

★★★★

Solo album number 18, “Egypt Station” is the latest release of legendary musician Paul McCartney. If we include Sir Paul’s work with The Beatles, Wings, and various movie soundtrack collaborations, that puts him at contributing to over 50+ albums. With such a prolific discography, it almost seems unbelievable that the 76 year old is still writing and recording music. “Egypt Station” reflects some of the learnings and challenges of loving and life and the material definitely shows that McCartney is not slowing down despite getting older.

As an avid listener of both The Beatles and Paul McCartney’s solo works through the 80s, it was odd to hear his loss of vocal control, the wobbles belonging undeniably to a 76 year old man. Still at many times, it’s better than gaggles of young voices in indie rock.

As “Opening Station” is just an intro of ambient station chatter, the album really quicks off with “I Don’t Know,” a song that twists and turns from cheerful to pained, accompanied by McCartney’s signature key transitions.

Lust is a common thread on “Egypt Station” with songs like “Come On To Me” and “Fuh You.” Maybe I’m a prude, but I found myself really want to get these songs over with before I had to think too much about Macca’s old man sex life. I suppose having a 76 year old rock legend sing lusty sentiments into my ear isn’t much different than someone my own age sing it, but the tracks just sound tacky rather than sensual.

Much of the music is structurally identical to 70s rock, but with more modern instrumentation and mixing. This could be cool, but those modern choices, such as the heavy bass and crystalline vocal runs with a touch of autotune make the album feel like it’s trying too hard to fit in with the youngsters on tracks “Fuh You” and “Hand in Hand. 

“Hand in Hand,” is one of the more stripped back tracks on the album, yet sounds the least like McCartney vocally. The bared instruments consist of guitar, piano, strings, and a weeping flute solo. Mostly in a minor key, McCartney sings about the life he and his partner could have if given a chance: “Gonna to take it to another level, you and me. Hand in hand, walking through life and making our plans.” However, this is a lackluster love song compared to past works such as “Maybe I’m Amazed” or “Here, There and Everywhere.”

The solemn piano that opens “I Don’t Know” is just that; the beginning. When the bass rolls in, McCartney shows that he’s still got some spunky attitude despite the confusion and vulnerability lacing the lyrics. “I got crows at my window, dogs at my door” is the strongest opening lyric on “Egypt Station” and the metaphor represents the troubles facing McCartney.

The poppy drums paired with the acoustic guitar under a hopeful melody forms the backbone of the song “Dominoes.” The lyrics are kind of vague but about making your way through life and the unexpected and even mundane aspects continue to fall in a chain reaction. The song is an easy-going pop tune, but the jam towards the end is tastefully experimental and succinctly McCartney, something that embodies what “Egypt Station” was going for all along.

“Despite Repeated Warnings” is one of McCartney’s token political statements, he is an activist heavily involved in preserving nature as well as animal welfare. In a recent Twitter Q&A, a fan asked if the song was about Brexit, and McCartney stated, “No, it was written before Brexit! It’s about climate change denial. So I made up a Captain sailing a boat into disaster, despite repeated warnings!” 

The final song on the album, “Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link” ends the album high and tight. As the name might hint, “Hunt You Down,” the first part of the song begins with attitude: cowbell, crunchy electric guitar,. The “Naked” portion of the song probably has some of my favorite lyrics on the album, with sentiments about the uncertainty of life and looking to fit in: “Save my soul and set it free, free to fly home. There's a place I'm meant to be back, back home.” These lyrics hint that McCartney is aware of his mortality creeping up on him, and speaking of creeping, that’s a great way to describe the low grooving guitar solo during the “C-Link” part of the song.

Musically, McCartney is still structurally dynamic as ever. However, some of the lyrical content, especially on the lustier tracks, comes across as forced and passe. But, I think it’s great that Macca is still writing and playing after all these years, especially considering how well executed much of the music is. Throughout Egypt Station, the guitar and piano chords still move as skillfully as ever, and the tracklist remains cohesive without sounding too homogenized. It all sounds like Paul McCartney, no doubt, but many of the songs have fairly distinct melodies, showing that maybe old dogs don’t need to learn too many new tricks if they know timeless ones to begin with. 

Livia Homerski can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com

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