I’ve spent a lot of time with Paul McCartney’s upcoming release, “Memory Almost Full” over the past two weeks, and like “Chaos”, it signals a resurgence of good songwriting and solo performances from Paulie. If I could combine the best songs from “Memory” and “Chaos”, I’d have the best Paul solo album ever. Instead, like all Paul albums, it’s hit or miss. Fortunately, this one is nearly all hits.
Here’s my song-by-song analysis:
Dance Tonight: Lots of people are upset that this is the first UK single, but I think it and its Michel Gondry-directed video are an excellent choice. The mandolin evokes a track from “McCartney”, or as many have said, the ukulele-driven “Ram On” songs. This is my favorite type of McCartney track — mostly acoustic and catchy as hell.
Ever Present Past: This is the first US single and though I do think it makes a good single, I’m not sure why there’s different singles based on geography. The instrumentation is marvelous — Paul is using his guitar skills to produce nice feedback-y backing to a pop song that sounds more and more late 80s to me with every listen (vocally). There are flashes of “McCartney II” in the middle 8, which helps me like this song more. Paul’s vocal here is not my favorite – it doesn’t match the backing at all to me. Way too sing-songy. I wish Nigel Goodrich was around to tell him to slow it down and sing lower.
See Your Sunshine: This seems like a leftover from “Driving Rain”. It’s not great songwriting and the music is too cutesy for me. The pushy bridge saves it a bit, but nothing can save him from “She makes me so glad/I want her so bad…” opening line that actually gets repeated. Come on. Seriously?
Only Mama Knows: Don’t let the nice orchestral opening fool you – this song rocks. Like many other songs on this album, fans can’t help but think this would fit perfectly on “Ram” or “Back to the Egg”. Lyrically, it’s the first full-blown story song by Paul we’ve heard in a while. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the divorce, but I doubt it. I hope he does it live.
You Tell Me: This is the most obvious leftover from the “Chaos” sessions, which explains why I love it. It reminds me of one of the “Chaos” b-sides, “Growing Up, Falling Down” because he uses his upper register (if you can call it that) on both. It’s a beautiful ballad done delicately, producing a soothing song you might miss if you’re not paying attention. And as a bonus, the lyrics are great.
Mister Bellamy: Another song I hope he does live. It’s a funny song, about a stubborn old man who won’t come down from his roof. This song really showcases what he’s learned in studying and creating classical music pieces. The instrumentation here and Bellamy’s voice (Paul singing the verses) are clearly influenced by proper classical music, and it sounds brilliant. The way he sings “…and I hope that you’ll understaaaand” with his voice going up and down and out at the end sounds like part of an aria. If I met someone who had never heard a Paul song, I would play this one as a great example of what he can do.
Gratitude: I hated this song at first. I still don’t love it, but it is an interesting track. He’s going for the pot-boiler thing he used to do, like with “Oh Darling”. Paul often tries to be something he’s really not, mainly just to pay tribute. His voices (like on most songs, he sings all the parts) isn’t the problem here though. The problem is the strange instrumentation. For example, a disco drum machine comes out of nowhere in the middle 8, and disappears just as curiously. This song needed real horns and louder piano to truly be good. Really poor production decisions here, in my opinion.
Vintage Clothes: I’m not alone in saying this is my fave off the album. I really hope this song gets put out as a single with a great video because I think it could be a big hit for him. Seriously, this song is a perfect pop song, not just a perfect Paul song. The little guitar fuzzy thing is awesome and the lyrics are fun (“we don’t care if we look like a girl or boy/what we are/is what we are/and what we wear/is vintage clothes”). If you’re not going to buy the album, at least download this track off your favorite music service.
“Vintage Clothes” marks the beginning of a suite of sorts. The songs run seamlessly, and all are clearly related to him picking apart his brain. But don’t think “Abbey Road” medley, because it’s not like that at all. All of these songs are finished, complete thoughts – not bits of unfinished tunes.
That Was Me: A bit self-indulgent, yes. With almost anyone else, I’d be more annoyed with this song and how it lists semi-cryptic stanzas of memories. However, realizing that Paul so rarely writes about what’s in his head so openly, this song is a treasure. Still, I tend to skip over it. I’m glad it exists though, even if I don’t know how a person can “sweat cobwebs”. Great voice and bass. Duh.
Feet in the Clouds: I always think of the cover to “Off the Ground” when I hear this. I really like this mainly acoustic ditty. Again a great lyric blended in with perfect backing. This song could be done by a indie pop star today. It’s a bit sing-songy in the chorus, but I could hear someone like Sufjan Stevens doing this song. The little build-up to the chorus sounds like something off a bad Wings album, but it works perfectly here. Lovely song.
House of Wax: Ok, talk about your Wings sound-alikes… In theory, I like this song. But I think I’d like this song more if it had come out in 1978, where I’d be more forgiving. It’s just so melodramatic. Still, if this is a sign of things to come from Paul, I can dig it. Nice guitar work – wish he’d do it live but I highly doubt it.
End of the End: We’ll all get really sick of this song when he does actually die (probably 30 years from now) because they’ll play it over and over and over again. Therefore, I’m leaving this song alone.
Nod Your Head: Paul exists in a mini “Helter Skelter” scream off. Totally silly, yet it rocks. How very Macca.
So to you, Paul, I nod my head because I like this album. Can’t wait to spend $300 to see him up close next year.