Friday, June 8, 2007

Don't Type Drunk

A little sloshed from hitting two bottles of wine, a Don Q Limon & Cranberry and a Stella Artois with dinner, so please forgive whatever connective tissue is missing from tonight's Rambler. I'm not sure where the romantic myth of the drunken glory of the Beats comes from. Hell, if they could find some way to type or hold a pen while drunk, I'm fucking impressed. I can barely see the screen, so it's a bit questionable whether I can write a coherent sentence tonight, much less change the course of American letters.

After four days, it looks like I'm not going to get around to giving the new McCartney album a full review - I haven't even had time to go back and listen - so here's a capsule review that will have to suffice. Some of this comes directly from a Macca thread over on the John Byrne Forum, where I participate occasionally when I'm in the mood to be ostracized by my fellow geeks.

This was spurred when someone wondered what everyone's top five/bottom five Paul albums were. That kind of listing happens a lot on these forums; it helps to pass the time.

I was going to do a list, and then I realized that I don't even OWN the McC albums I consider not very good - "Speed of Sound," "London Town," "McC II," "Press to Play," and "Pipes of Peace." And each of those albums has at the very least a kick-ass single on it (yes, you heard me: "Listen to What the Man Said" kicks my ass. Now you know how I roll), so it's so hard to place them in any kind of hierarchical order.

The problem with Paul - if it is indeed a problem - is that he's a guy who loves what he does so much that he thinks that anything that he comes up with is worth putting on vinyl/cd/drm-mp3. I mean, anyone who could putWaterfalls on the same album as Temporary Secretary obviously has issues with self-editing. And what the hell. I'd be lying if I said a part of me didn't enjoy the act of peeling out the good from the bad with every Paul album, but I do wish he'd let himself be produced by a strong producer for every other album. Nigel Godrich got great material out of him.

Anyone else but me want to hear a Paul album produced by Sean Lennon? Sean's not so great a songwriter (he has Paul's same weakness: often inconsequential lyrics), but his albumssound great, and Paul's albums have lost their ear-candy quality in the last two decades. It could be a good combination.

Instead, we get albums with straw producers, hired men that Paul can push around - such as Memory Almost Full. Just the fact that a good portion of this stuff was recorded and then set aside before Paul went into the studio with Godrich for Chaos and Creation in the Backyard should be a loud and clear advertisement of the general tone and quality of this new album: It's Paul Farting Around.

Now, Paul McCartney is an expert farter. In fact, were it not for the Grateful Dead, I think that he'd be known as the big stoner artist. A good portion of his post-Beatles catalog is clearly just some shit that came to him while haloed in a cloud of blue smoke. But Paul is enough of a musical genius that even his most half-baked ideas have a kernel of pure diamond, so we can forgive him a lot. Just the fact that the world's richest musician is still driven to record a new album every couple of years or so is pretty impressive to me. I mean, you don't see BIll Gates getting down in the trenches and debugging Vista by hand, do you?

But it would be nice - and I'll lament this until I'm blue in the fingers - if Paul'd just take his time every now and then. It's obvious that Godrich made him put in the extra five minutes per song for Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, and it paid off. Now Starbucks is ponying up the dough, and Paul responds to his biggest promotional synergy in three decades with an album of outtakes.

Oh well. At least we can't say that he isn't consistent.

Not to say that there aren't good tunes on Memory..., but they're underdeveloped, and further between.

The bass playing, as usual, is mind-fuckingly grand. Even where he makes the drum, guitar and piano as straight and bland as possible, he can't quite dampen his bassman's spirit. The basslines on Memory... are an elegant, drunken, arching, oil-spill of a sexy mess; beautifully counterpointing the melody and adding energy and drive while effortlessly weaving through the arrangements. What's extra scary is that you know he did those lines - those perfect, glorious lines - in one take. The bastard.

Anyway, the singles (Ever-Present Past and Dance Tonight) are good, and that's the most we can hope for under the circumstances. And I confess that the video for Dance Tonight, by Michel Gondry, has grown on me quite a bit. What the hell, let's close out on that. Natalie Portman is cute, and the song is catchy. I can think of worse ways to blow three-and-a-half minutes on YouTube.


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