Paul McCartney’s latest album, “New,” bills itself generously, bringing a varied set of instruments, tones and tempos while still maintaining a sense of unity. However, the lyrics just maintain the lovey-dovey status quo heard throughout the 71-year-old musician’s career.
The album begins as boldly as its title with tracks such as “Save Us,” which features distorted electric guitar mixing with a pounding piano. Its brash, brazen rock is a far cry from “Yellow Submarine.” However, lyrically, it’s not as far outside McCartney’s comfort zone. In “Save Us,” he calls for love like a drowning man cries for help. He has a long history of love songs, and “New” doesn’t bring much conceptually new to the table. It’s more like a fresh coat of paint than a thoroughly unique product.
Instrumentally, the album is fantastic. Some songs hearken back to the early Beatles days of simple acoustic guitar, while others bring strings, synth and a smorgasbord of percussion. The track “Get Me Out Of Here” on the album’s deluxe edition backs an old-radio sound with African drums, while the titular “New” only uses clapping and tambourines for percussion. The variation, in part because of McCartney’s working with four different producers, lets each song be distinct while still working into a cohesive whole.
The diversity, however, is less represented in the lyrics. At best, McCartney uses thoughtful metaphors, like in “Alligator”: “When I come home with a zoo/ I need somebody who’s a sweet communicator/ I can give my alligator to.” At worst, though, it sounds like nursery rhymes, such as in “On My Way To Work,” where he sings, “On my way to work/ I rode a big green bus/ I could see everything/ from the upper deck.” No matter what, the lyrics are tirelessly romanticized, somewhat sappy and occasionally nonsensical.
“New” shows impressive change for someone who has been writing music for decades. It may not be as brave as it first sounds, but it’s still worth purchasing for any fan of the slightly naive and optimistic songwriting for which McCartney is famous.
Overall rating: Three out of four stars