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Introspection, sex, pleas for peace and a whole lot of nostalgia: at 76, and on his 17th solo studio album, Sir Paul McCartney does not shy away from any of this. All possible elements of McCartney’s musical spectrum are thrown into the beautiful fluctuation that is “Egypt Station,” his first LP in five years.
The sound of a train on the brink of departure accompanied by angelic, hymnal voices signals the start of a journey. And what a journey it is. I won’t lie— as “Opening Station” merged into the solemn piano of “I Don’t Know,” I nearly cried. McCartney’s ever present and seemingly everlasting grasp of sentimentality melds into word and sound.
“I’ve got crows at my window, dogs at my door. I don’t think I can take any more,” he begins, laced with a wistful, descending bassline. Troubles gnaw at him, and in pursuit of solving them, he comes to terms with the profundity of not knowing.
This song, along with others on the record, demonstrate the vulnerability that many do not suspect of a world renowned entertainer. McCartney questions himself, subsequently admitting to his shortcomings— a satisfyingly human approach to songwriting.
The introspective “I Don’t Know” immediately moves onto the more upbeat “Come Onto Me,” packed with pounding drums and horns. Much of this album’s appeal is found in McCartney’s vacillation between the profound and the mundane along with the struggles and joys of life.
It seems the chaos and grandeur of a whirlwind career has settled, giving way to appreciation of simpler things. McCartney, who describes himself as an “optimistic realist” reflects on the olden days of his youth, then ties back to his present of pleasant contentment, an imagery rich journey in “Happy With You.” He doesn’t get high anymore, but finds solace in “watching reunited friends” and “see[ing] the mighty ocean break.” The soft lyricism is backed by simple strums and instrumentals.
McCartney overlaps genres seamlessly, and “Egypt Station” comes as a colorful addition to his extensive discography. Visible stitchings of psychedelia appear on “Caesar Rock,” while “Back in Brazil” has a techno tone to it. The playful “Fuh You,” produced by Ryan Tedder, has a modern pop twist, an indication of McCartney’s willingness to assimilate to the times, but overall, stick to his guns as his original style coexists. He still possesses the universal wonder and rapture of blossoming passion. This excitement and possibility that feels new every time– making for quite a raunchy love song.
Constant shifts in rhythm and beat, especially evident in “Despite Repeated Warnings” and “Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link,” are like a walk in the park to McCartney. And somehow it’s all still harmonious as a spring day (in a world where spring days are defined by orchestral explosions, stark time changes, blatant social messages and a timeless voice that sings on and on). Unorthodox sound elements characteristic of the Beatles’ style still echo in even his latest album. One can only hope that McCartney continues to grace the music industry with his creations.
The true standout of “Egypt Station” is unsurprisingly an emotional one. “Dominoes” focuses heavily on the value of the present, discussing the inevitability of life moving on with or without you. Chord progressions evoke intense feeling as McCartney’s message is conveyed: there is no use in dwelling in remorse or waiting for a sign. You must flow.
“This is it, here and now. We can find our way somehow,” he sings, a message of urgency and promise. Even if the path is not clear, it exists, and isn’t that enough to pursue the journey?