Paul McCartney’s newest album was released in November of 2008 but it’s not exactly a Paul McCartney album. It’s officially an album by the experimental music group called The Fireman. Hopefully you are now intrigued and are wondering what in the heck I’m talking about. And you should be intrigued if you enjoy interesting music that stretches the boundaries of “normal” song arrangements.
So who is The Fireman and what do they have to do with Paul McCartney? The Fireman is a duo consisting of a producer who goes by the name Youth (his real name is Martin Glover) and a former bass player for a certain influential 1960s band named Paul McCartney (ah yes, how did you guess?)
If you haven’t heard of The Fireman before that’s because they have only released two previous albums which haven’t gained much widespread attention. One of which was basically a remix album (1993’s Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest) and a second that was a psychedelic, almost entirely instrumental, ambient album (1998’s Rushes which I highly recommend.) Neither of these albums were very publicized and neither made the charts in the UK or the US.
Their newest album, Electric Arguments, is a shift for the group in that it has been more heavily promoted (and it did enter the charts in the US and the UK although only at #67 & 71) and in that it includes songs with vocal melodies & lyrics rather than pure instrumentals (in fact every song on the album features vocals.)
This is very exciting for McCartney fans like myself who have greatly enjoyed McCartney’s more experimental tendencies (such as the tape loops on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the second album from The Fireman (Rushes,) or The Liverpool Sound Collage.) Finally we get to hear the combination of McCartney’s songwriting & singing talents (and his vocals sound amazing on this album) combined with his experimental musical ideas.
It’s a thrilling ride especially when you consider the rather psychedelic notion that this is the same man who basically gave birth to many of the musical styles of today. This 66 year old man who has seen the music he helped give birth to develop into many different styles of music. And here he is in 2008 still producing inventive original music. It’s truly a beautiful thing if you are into music for the art of it and not for the scene (yes I’m looking at you Pitchfork Media.)
One of the really great things about this album is the way that McCartney stretches his vocals. On each song they sound completely different than the song before (or just about any song he’s ever released in the passed.) There’s a rawness to his vocals that is really exciting to listen to.
There’s a lot of different styles of music on Electric Arguments from ragged rock (track 1 opens the album with a noisy Led Zeppelin-esque rocker) to quiet acoustic music (Track 2 “Two Magpies”) to spaced out hard to describe electronica inspired music.
One of the highlights for me is track 6, “Light From Your Lighthouse” which features probably the weirdest vocal on the album (and that’s saying quite a bit.) It’s also probably the catchiest song on the album. It actually reminds me a great deal of Ween which is a very good thing. I don’t think a lot of people realize how inspired by McCartney Ween actually are. It was Paul, after all, who was behind of the “genre pastiches” with The Beatles (“Rocky Raccoon,” “Honey Pie,” “When I’m 64,” “Back In The USSR.”) By the way, if you are more of an old school classic rock fan and you’ve never heard Ween, I recommend you check them out. Start out with something like White Pepper so you don’t get scared away!
All said, I think Electric Arguments is sure to go down as one of the best albums of 2008 and as one of the most essential albums in Paul McCartney’s solo career.