Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
Review by Jack Foley
GIVEN the turmoil surrounding Paul McCartney’s personal life it’s refreshing to find that his music hasn’t suffered. Memory Almost Full, McCartney’s 21st studio recording since The Beatles marks the sound of an artist clearly having fun.
It’s a collection of 13 songs that confirm this music icon has lost none of his ability to marry catchy pop records with edgy, more experimental material. As such, it evokes memories of the length and breadth of McCartney’s musical career, referencing The Beatles and Wings, whilst managing to sound fresh and contemporary at the same time.
There are misfires, or tracks that don’t work quite so well as the album at its very best, but the overall impression leaves you feeling impressed and happy that McCartney has been able to find solace in his music.
The artist says of the album himself: “It’s title is a phrase that seemed to embrace modern life; in modern life our brains can get a bit overloaded. I realised I had also seen it come up on my phone a few times. When I started bouncing the idea round with some friends they nearly all got different meanings out of it, but they all said they loved it.
“So the feedback helped solidify the title. I really enjoyed making this album with David Kahne and I’m proud of all the songs. We had a great time. I hope that the fun we had will communicate itself to the people who are going to listen to it.”
That fun begins from the very first track, the single Dance Tonight, a genuinely shimmering effort built around a thumping backbeat and some genuinely enchanting mandolin. It’s a sparkling effort that really gets into your head and refuses to budge for all the right reasons – and it features an excellent video from French maestro Michel Gondry that stars Natalie Portman.
The feelgood vibe continues into the rousing Ever Present Past, a fine pop record that breezes along in effortless fashion despite hinting at the personal woes McCartney is facing (“I’ve got too much on my mind” and “my ever present past” being lines that stand out in particular). The chorus, though, is one of the most melodic on the album and one that pretty much seduces from the very first listen.
See Your Sunshine is a beautifully constructed, upbeat ballad that finds McCartney singing about love like some giddy teenager – “she makes me so glad, I want her so bad”. Once again, it’s refreshing to find him so upbeat and positive – and this is a lovely record for anyone mixing romance with sunshine.
The album then veers into more eclectic territory with Only Mama Knows, a sweeping record that begins with some soaring, cinematic strings before suddenly exploding into life with a guitar sound that’s reminiscent of both Got My Mind Set On You era George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. It’s the sound of McCartney rocking out and it’s just as infectious.
You Tell Me, in contrast, finds the singer in slightly more reflective pose, the melancholy riffs of the guitars working in tandem with McCartney’s regret-tinged vocals.
And Mr Bellamy is one of the more experimental offerings – teasing you with another melancholy opening before careering into an odd mix of warped melodies, different vocal styles and tinkling piano chords. It’s one of the tracks that requires more than one listen before you properly get the measure of it – and even then it may not convince everyone. But it’s evidence of McCartney at his most ambitious.
Likewise, Gratitude, which again stretches McCartney vocally. Again, you might have to be in the right kind of mood.
The album is certainly on surer footing when it keeps things simple but you have to applaud McCartney’s tireless desire to mix things up. Vintage Clothes harks back to Wings and is another melody strewn joyride that boasts easy appeal, much like That Was Me, which contains a rousing central guitar riff that infuses proceedings with a terrific energy.
Feet In The Clouds is a shimmering beauty, House of Wax epic in scope, The End Of The End a tender statement of intent for the future that resonates long after it’s finished, and Nod Your Head a cheeky throwback to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds era Beatles. It brings things to a rip-roaring close to confirm – as if there was any doubt – that this really is a great album from one of music’s undisputed living legends.
Download picks: Dance Tonight, Ever Present Past, See Your Sunshine, Nod Your Head, Vintage Clothes, Feet In The Clouds, Only mama Knows