Paul McCartney: Egypt Station Album Review
It’s been a long five years since Paul McCartney released his last album, but in June 2018, the 76-year-old musician and songwriter finally teased his newest record Egypt Station on his Instagram page. As McCartney remains one of the most popular living music legends in 2018, word of a new album came as a delight to fans. Egypt Station is finally available for listening, however, long-time followers of the former Beatle may find themselves on the fence about his latest work.
Egypt Station starts (and ends) with a short clip of city hustle and bustle; nothing particularly notable, though it does emanate the “concept album” feeling that McCartney is trying stress. According to McCartney himself, Egypt Station “starts off at the station on the first song and then each song is like a different station.” It’s a pretty loose idea for a concept album, but then again, so was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
It’s the second track that immediately makes or breaks the album for listeners. The soft piano melody that opens “I Don’t Know,” one of the album’s three singles, lulls the listener into what sounds like a typical McCartney ballad, but the feeling suddenly crashes to a halt with the first few beats of a drum machine around the 47-second mark. It’s in this moment that it becomes instantly recognizable that this is not your typical Paul McCartney album, for better or for worse. Yes, Egypt Station is, in fact, a departure from the traditional pop and rock stylings of McCartney in favor of the modern pop sound that has taken center stage in today’s music world. As such, it’s likely that numerous fans of the original McCartney will be turned off at the new style, while the general audience of today may have an ear for something like this, creating the listener division mentioned before. It’s certainly a risky move by McCartney.
But although Egypt Station is a venture into new territory, the results aren’t half bad. The aforementioned “I Don’t Know” still makes for a pretty pop single, and McCartney’s bass on the tune sounds as crisp as ever. The next track, “Come on to Me,” released as a single alongside “I Don’t Know” back in June, is a catchy up-tempo rocker that’s somewhat reminiscent of McCartney’s glory days. Other highlights include “Happy with You,” a cheerful acoustic number about the simple joys of life, “Dominoes,” a pop-rock jaunt that very well could have been a Wings hit in 1978 and “Despite Repeated Warnings,” a fairly biting jab at President Donald Trump and his stance against climate change.
Though Egypt Station has lots of upside, there’s also plenty to criticize. The use of the aforementioned drum machine is already a likely point of contention for long-time fans, but the fact that “I Don’t Know,” “Come on to Me” and “People Want Peace” all have nearly identical drum patterns is a glaringly noticeable issue. Speaking of “People Want Peace,” the anti-war tune sounds like a modern-day rehashing of John Lennon’s timeless “Imagine,” but the message is so contrived that the track falls flat on its face without ever really having a chance. Then there’s the lyrics. McCartney has always been a very “hit or miss” lyricist (at his best, “Yesterday,” at his worst, “Let ‘Em In”), and there are plenty of misses on Egypt Station.
Still, McCartney should earn some level of praise for trying his hand at unexplored genres at 76 years old, even if the results are spotty. Two tracks, in particular, that stand out as such are “Fuh You” and “Back in Brazil.” Traditionalists will no doubt be enraged by “Fuh You,” a raunchy, double entendre-laced pop piece that sounds far more modern than anything McCartney’s ever attempted. Though it could (and likely will) be viewed as a sell-out track intended to rake in chart success, it would be more logical to call “Fuh You” an uneven attempt at reaching a younger audience. At least McCartney is trying. As for “Back in Brazil,” a contender for the strangest McCartney composition ever, the track mixes together themes of modern pop, jazz, classical and even electronic: An odd combination, but one that sort of works, considering how catchy the tune is.
In taking in all its ups and downs, it’s fair to call Egypt Station an adequate record. It’s a far cry from McCartney’s heyday with the Beatles and Wings, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. At its simplest, Egypt Station is a step forward into the prevailing sounds of the modern day that achieves varying levels of success. Like any album, it has its flaws, but it’s a relatively enjoyable listen from start to finish with no deal-breaking blemishes. McCartney purists may not be fond of the new direction, but those who are able to roll with the changes may find themselves enjoying the record to a higher degree than they once imagined.
DJ Bauer is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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