Paul McCartney’s new CD, Memory Almost Full, first things first, is terrible. No one likes Sir Paul more than Matthew and I and we are willing to give him a break when he releases questionable material, like Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. This one, though, is beyond the beyonds. Paul needs to be told, badly and soon, that he needs to decrease quantity in order to increase quality. Paul, you may be an artist, but even an artist needs to cull!
Let’s go back, way back, to Wings, an unfortunate span of about 10 years starting in the early 1970’s. I can tolerate At the Speed of Sound because I was 15 then and thought it was cool and, to be honest, “Silly Love Songs” is kind of nice. The rest of Wings’ oeuvre, other than “Let me Roll it,” “My Love” and “London Town,” is of little interest to me. The remainder of the 1980’s was unremarkable, too, other than a couple songs with a decent hook, like “No More Lonely Nights.”
Things started looking up in 1989 with the release of Flowers in the Dirt, with the more-than-nice “My Brave Face.” In 1993 came Off the Ground, an altogether good album with a strong band. Yes, boys and girls, they are all albums to me. 1997’s Flaming Pie continued the trend of likable, thoughtful melodies with decent lyrics, quality arrangements and musicians who played well together. “Beautiful Night” (with Ringo!) and “The World Tonight” are two from the latter I enjoy. Even the title track is fun without seeming ridiculous.
I know now that 2001’s Driving Rain was the beginning of the end. While there were a few songs that worked, like “From a Lover to a Friend,” they in no way forgive the crimes that are “Freedom” and “Driving Rain,” whose masters should be utterly destroyed. I’ll bet that Paul thought “Freedom” would become the international anthem for 9/11 as he, ironically, halted the production of Driving Rain for it. Bad idea, but then again maybe I’m the only person who cringes in embarrassment when it’s played. Steven won’t put the CD on because he’s afraid he might accidentally hear “Driving Rain,” which goes, “One, two, three, four, five, lets go for a drive.” Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005, was worse yet and the trend culminates in this dog (sorry, Berry, nothing intended), Memory Almost Full.
Driving Rain and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard enjoyed some level of critical acclaim, but I think of them as “not good” and “bad,” respectively. Play either one of these increasingly mediocre collections against Flaming Pie and see what I mean. Memory Almost Full brings me to the point of no longer being able to argue in defense of Paul and actually angers me. The songs are nothing more than simplistic, rhymed poetry set to forgettable musical lines. That is not to say you can’t craft a great song using a simple lyric and/or melody — you can, but it requires a high level of talent that is not evident here. “Gratitude” will have you running and hiding under tables. “Nod Your Head,” which starts out sounding like it might be alright, winds up falling flat, leaving you to focus on that that bad, bad lyric. I thought “Vintage Clothes” was OK when I thought the line was, “We are vintage clothes, ” until Matt told me it’s “We wear vintage clothes.” Sort of like how “Beth,” the Kiss ballad, took a beating in my head when I learned the line was not, “Death, I hear you calling.” Here’s a sample from “See Your Sunshine:”
She makes me feel glad
I want her so bad
My heart is beating madly for her
If you ask me why
I’m not going to lie
I’ll have to say that I adore her
I will promptly rip the only song worth saving, “Ever Present Past,” and see if Amoeba is crazy enough to buy this CD from me. My parting words to Paul McCartney: Get out of the studio and put together a decent band. Write songs and then edit them. Practice, record and mix with said band. Play the songs for a decent cross-section of people, including a statistically significant portion who won’t kiss your ass. If this group tells you a song sucks, don’t release it. Don’t believe that everything you do is great simply because it’s you. Paul, let’s get back on track so I can believe in you again.