Saturday, 3 November 2018

Paul McCartney - McCartney II (1980)


Released May 1980

Recorded in Sussex and Scotland

Paul McCartney's first solo album after the demise of Wings was a patchy affair, to be honest. McCartney was battling to keep hold of his relevance after punk, with new wave, post punk all over the place and "New Romanticism" waiting around the corner. Was there any need for McCartney and this sort of semi-synthesised, electronic-ish material? Probably not, at the time. It is a very incongruous album, culturally. The idiotic, bemused expression on the cover didn't help either. Compare that with the Sex Pistols' album cover, or "London Calling", or Dexy's Midnight Runners' "Waiting For The Young Soul Rebels", just as random examples.


1. Coming Up
2. Temporary Secretary
3. On The Way
4. Waterfalls
5. Nobody Knows
6. Front Parlour
7. Summer's Day Song
8. Frozen Jap
9. Bogey Music
10. Darkroom
11. One Of These Days

"Coming Up" is a danceable, lively piece of funky-ish disco that was very popular at the time, actually, while "Temporary Secretary" is an electronic, blippy strange song, insufferably catchy, and in possession of an embarrassing spoken part near the end. Just when you think that McCartney has lost everything he had and gone all synthesised pop, he comes up with the bluesy, rock guitar glory of  "On The Way", an industrial, meaty, chugging blues that I really like. It is the only really traditionally credible piece of rock on the album, however.

"Waterfalls" is a trademark hooky but plaintive McCartney ballad. It was memorable, and although stuck in something of a time warp, it is as timelessly endearing. "Nobody Knows" is a frantic slice of thumping country blues that I can't imagine appealing to anyone much in 1980. It sounds like a lazy demo piece of fun, to me. Similarly, the funky wah-wah instrumental that is "Front Parlour". Yes, it is perfectly listenable, but was this really the best Paul McCartney could put on an album at the time? This is Paul McCartney we are talking about, remember.

"Summer's Day Song" is actually a quite evocative synthesiser-backed song with the electric sounds of David Bowie's "Heroes" instrumentals all over it. It is one of the album's most adventurous numbers. The electro-dance rhythms of the instrumental "Frozen Jap" is interesting too. I quite like it and it sort of suited that whole Ultravox-style electronic vibe of the time. "Bogey Music" lets things down, though, being a ludicrous pice of jaunty "fun". I guess this whole "side two" of the original album, from "Front Parlour" onwards at least showed that McCartney was trying to be experimental, relevant and innovative as opposed to issuing another album of Wings-style (relatively) formulaic chart-aimed pop. "Darkroom" exemplified that as well - a quirky piece of Lene Lovich-style electronic nuttiness. This is definitely not what you would expect from Paul McCartney. I do wonder what people thought who had bought this album on the back of "Coming Up", though. I dare say they just only ever played "side one". "One Of These Days" snaps us back to laid-back, typical McCartney wistful balladry, however, just in time, before the album ends.

(The bonus track, "Blue Sway" is atmospherically excellent, though, full of sweeping strings and saxophone and should have been included on the album).

This album was certainly no work of genius, let's be brutally honest, either in its songs or its production. The whole sound on the album is pretty indistinct and muffled, I am told it was deliberately "lo-fi". Hmmm. Any excuse, eh? Some have even said this album has "cult" status and is listed in one of those "100 albums to hear before you die" lists. Do me a favour.


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