Known Johnson

September 18, 2005

Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:45 am

There’ve been some great releases the past couple weeks that I’ve been ignoring the Lull (for a good reason!) Here are a one of the most notable ones (more to come later):

Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation in the Backyard – If you’re like me, you have found most of the post-Beatles albums by the ex-members to be pretty spotty in general, with a few gems sprinkled throughout. I still maintain that George’s All Things Must Pass (his first post-Beatless solo album) is without a doubt the best of the lot, followed pretty closely by his last solo album, Brainwashed, but Paul’s got a huge solo discography that is liberally peppered with great songs – just not great albums. Paul’s been working on that, lately, however, and I think he finally took care of it with this, his latest. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is not only the best album he’s done in decades, it’s also his most Beatles-like, and that’s a good thing.

The album is filled with catchy, thoughtful songs that don’t attempt to keep McCartney in tune with the times, as was the mistake that 2001’s Driving Rain made all too often. Instead, producer Nigel Godrich (the man behind the Radiohead “sound” that everyone wanted to steal in the late 90s) simply put Paul in the studio and said, “Here’s a guitar, a piano, some drums and a bass. Do what you want.” And, aside from a few contributions from outside musicians (Jason Falkner, ex- of Jellyfish and the Grays, two great, sadly overlooked groups in the 90s, and now a solo musician) McCartney handles it all. The result is an album of great songs that don’t feel like they’re self-consciously trying to keep up with the latest trends. What comes through is what you’d expect – McCartney’s great gift for putting together thoughtful lyrics and beautiful melodies. Highlights for me are the “Blackbird”-esque “Jenny Wren” (a follow-up of sorts?) which is followed on the album by the dark “At the Mercy,” which almost sounds as if McCartney had been listening to Mike Keneally‘s album, Wooden Smoke for inspiration.

The album, in general, however, does not sport the usual McCartney pop-happiness. This is a somber, introspective album, the sound of a man looking back at his life, maybe not with regrets, but certainly with some tinges of darkness around the hopeful messages in the lyrics. As often as Driving Rain attempted to ascert that his new wife, Heather Mills, saved him from sadness, it seems clear to me with this album that he’s not gotten over losing his long-time wife Linda to cancer in the late 90s. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is the melancholy sound of a man knowing he’s lost the best thing he’d ever found in his life . . . and knowing he has far too much to live for beyond that loss.

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