Considering his exalted position in popular music culture (it’s difficult to think of anyone who has contributed more), Paul McCartney has always been remarkably unprecious about his recorded output.
Cynics might dismiss the likes of Ebony And Ivory and Pipes Of Peace as pop bromides (let’s not mention The Frog Chorus), but for a songwriter now in his sixth decade at the top it is all part of a seemingly limitless creative flow.
This more-is-more approach certainly has its detractors – as long ago as 1970 John Lennon dismissed McCartney’s debut solo album as “rubbish” – but fans will hardly be complaining at the prospect of this unexpected glut of new material.
Recorded at his home in Sussex during the spring lockdown, Macca’s third self-titled album shares the off-the-clock feel of both 1970’s McCartney and 1980’s McCartney II.
However, while its two predecessors reflected dramatic shifts in his musical life – coming at the end of the career of The Beatles and Wings respectively – III is the sound of a less restless McCartney simply doing what he does best.
Bucolic opener Long Tailed Winter Bird has more tonal shifts than most bands manage in an entire album, signalling the start of a melodic gold rush that sees him happily mine his own illustrious past.
Lavatory Lil is a salty boogie that could fit nicely on the second side of Abbey Road, while Slidin’ is an exhilarating 24-carat rocker in the mould of Venus And Mars track Letting Go, all snaking guitar lines and an impassioned vocal, in which he growls: ‘This is what I wanna do, who I want to be.’
A reflective Pretty Boys, meanwhile, sees him acknowledging his own experience of the pop process, musing: ‘Here come the pretty boys, they’re gonna set the world on fire/Objects of desire’.
McCartney’s innate pop sensibility shines through on the jaunty earworm Find My Way, and a breezy Seize The Day in which he acknowledges his own cheery disposition, declaring: ‘It’s still alright to be nice.’
While the final When Winter Comes sees him enjoying the concerns of a typical well-heeled septuagenarian (‘Must fix the fence by the acre plot’), the stakes are raised for the penultimate Deep Down. This finds the 78-year-old delivering a crepuscular, hip-hop-informed groove about ‘throwing a party every night’, which singlehandedly detonates the concept of ageism.
On the form displayed on this album, the boy’s got quite a future.