Music review: "New"

The New York TimesOctober 26, 2013 

“New” by Paul McCartney.

  • Pop Paul McCartney New

Echoing the Beatles

Love reigns on “New,” Paul McCartney’s first solo album of new pop songs in six years. His 2007 album, “Memory Almost Full,” pondered mortality and the past. “New” is friskier. While some songs toy with echoes of the Beatles, McCartney, 71, chooses to look ahead, offering affection and benedictions.

The title song works the album’s past-and-present balancing act superbly. Its music-hall bounce and descending chords recall “Penny Lane,” but the melody sails toward Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies and a playful closing chorale, and the gratitude in the lyrics is palpable. It’s followed by a more contemporary-sounding song that’s equally memorable: “Appreciate,” with booming drums, washes of synthetic chords, loops of sound effects and sudden bursts of backup vocals, while McCartney counsels, “When you’re left for dead, in the middle of a crisis/You must appreciate the day.”

Throughout “New,” McCartney calls for love and kindness. “Keep on sending your love,” he urges in “Save Us,” the lean and insistent rocker that opens the album; “Do some good before you say goodbye,” he counsels in “Everybody Out There,” which has a touch of REM’s folk-rock.

But in “Early Days,” McCartney lets his perpetual boyishness fall away. To a folky tune akin to “Mother Nature’s Son,” he recalls the very beginnings of his pop career. His voice isn’t entirely smooth; there’s a scratch in it, and a little peevishness as he complains about retrospective credit for Beatles achievements: “Everybody seems to have their own opinion, who did this and who did that.” It’s a reminder that his usual charm isn’t as effortless as his melodies can make it seem.

Jon Pareles/New York Times

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