Paul McCartney - McCartney
or better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.
Between its bookends, “The Lovely Linda” and “Kreen – Akrore” Paul McCartney unveiled his first true solo release after the breakup of the Beatles. With its release date of April 1970, it was before the painful bickering and lawsuits. The album marks the heyday of McCartney’s solo career, much like Please Please Me did for the Beatles. Towards the end of the Beatles career, it seemed they could never regain the musical sincerity and honesty of the Beatles For Sale era. The truth is, they never did. But both McCartney’s and Harrison’s first solo albums captured that innocence and compassion once again.
Throughout the album there are laughs, jams, musical mistakes and off the cuff remarks littered throughout. Upon first listen, it might sound like McCartney isn’t trying his best. And that might be true. Before the breakup of the Beatles, there was one Beatle that wanted to start touring college campuses under different monikers, record more albums, and just continue to be the Beatles. That Beatle was Paul. By the album’s release, McCartney was probably still in shock concerning the breakup. This is remotely apparent at different points during the album. The unpolished nature of many songs plays almost as a joke. The laugh at the end of “The Lovely Linda”, the endless and pointless jam of “Oo You”. It seems as if he is laughing with us, laughing at his music. And, in fact, it may have been a joke- something to record while the Beatles worked out their internal problems and to pass the time waiting for the eventual reunion of the group. We know the reunion never took place, but the feeling did. Though it does come off sounding half assed, there are definitely points in the album that truly make McCartney a classic.
“The Lovely Linda” starts with a gorgeous melody and guitar and ends with a laugh – a perfect summary of the album. It brings out some of the most irresistible factors in Paul’s musicality. There is the beautifully saccharine melody sung out by his fragile vibrato. And far before the lyrical doom that surrounded him constantly after 73/74, “The Lovely Linda” recites tremendously simple poetry. “La la la la la la lovely Linda, with the lovely flowers in her hair” he sings. While meaning next to nothing on paper, when combined with Paul’s childish voice and the music it seems to speak of everything that is surreal with love.
Following the first track is another two phrase song, “That Would Be Something”. It seems almost a homage to McCartney Apple apprentice Mary Hopkin. As it forgetfully passes, the listener finds itself upon the first true disappointment, “Valentine Day”. The instrumental jam sounds like a 12 year old with a new four track. It is a flexing of table muscle and an exercise in mediocrity.
Following this disappointment, however, comes one of McCartney’s finest points in his entire solo career. In the achingly beautiful “Every Night”, observational lyrics are thrown out like “Everyday I lean on a lamppost, I’m wasting my time - Every night I lay on a pillow, I’m resting my mind”. The chorus of this song could also compete with most Beatle chorus’. Sounding somewhat similar to the Beatles rarity “Goodbye”, “Every Night” proved to the listener that Paul really still had it.
After the trivial but entertaining, “Hot as Sun Glasses”, the most stunningly vulnerable song, "Junk", is presented. “Motorcars, handlebars, bicycles for two, brokenhearted jubilee” he sings as he builds into the emotional chorus. The waltz beat and the minimal harmonies added to this late Beatles song prove to be a little less effective.
The trio of “Man We Was Lonely”, “Oo You” and “Momma Miss America” float down an endless path of rehashed blues and folk jams. But of course, in a theme of this album, good overcomes the bad. “Teddy Boy”, again another late Beatles song, brings a story of a boy who goes off to war. The charming song leads us into “Singalong Junk”, a rehash of the earlier “Junk” with no lyrics. Clever!
And quite possibly the most popular post-Beatle McCartney song comes after that, “Maybe I’m Amazed”. This is the polished gem of the album, the one song that could have fit in with a regularly produced Beatles album or later produced Linda/McCartney/Wings album. Complete with vocal embellishments, and anthem-like guitar solos, the song seemed to be written for the rock and rollers wedding. “Baby I’m amazed at how much I really need you.” he croons.
To close the album is “Kreen – Akrore”. A hodgepodge of drums and odd song structures, this ends the album with the listener wanting more. And in future McCartney albums, the listener does get more, but not without a steady decline in the relative quality of the work. So when listening to this album, think of what Paul lost, his baby, The Beatles. To make up for the loss, he creates another baby, symbolically and visually apparent on the photos on the albums inserts. It is hard for him to move on, but with McCartney, Paul unknowingly does it with style and charm.