Egypt Station is Sir Paul McCartney’s 25th album of songs since the break-up of the Beatles (and that is not counting another dozen classical, electronic and soundtrack works). It should come as no surprise that he still knows how to write a memorable tune and deliver it with panache.
What is particularly heartening is the energy and zest he brings to the task. At 76, McCartney shows little inclination to slow down, or, for the most part, grow up.
Beefy pop rock tracks Come On To Me and Fuh You showcase Macca in frisky form, looking for amorous adventure with unabashedly cheesy lines that would be gauche from a rocker quarter of his age (“If you come on to me then I’ll come on to you”). He gets away with such unrepentant immaturity because his delight is infectious. The celebratory stomp of Caeser Rock (for which he is actually singing “she’s a rock”) concludes a roll call of a lover’s virtues with the curiously arresting declaration “We got matching teeth!” McCartney has never been a particularly fussy editor of his own lyrics and is evidently not about to change the habits of a lifetime now.
In its spirit of cheery adventure, Egypt Station is reminiscent of early Wings. It is a big, brash, silly, colourful rag-bag of throwaway ditties, snappy riffs, belting rock and roll, playful grooves, singalong anthems and bold multi-part pop-rock jaunts delivering nursery rhyme narratives with epic swagger. It is transparently the work of a man who loves making music.
McCartney plays a dozen instruments (including bass, piano, guitar, drums, synths, harpsichord, harmonium, Wurlitzer and all manner of percussion) although this is not amongst his more ragged and whimsical one-man albums. It has been produced with contemporary punch by hit-maker Greg Kurstin (Adele, Lily Allen, Foo Fighters) and features lush orchestrations and some gloriously brash interjections from the Muscle Shoals Horns.
McCartney’s voice has weathered with age. For the most part, he is so adept at swathing vocals in complimentary harmonic notes you barely notice how thin and dry his high range has become. Yet amidst the pop jamboree runs a vein of more soulful songs, exploiting the scratchy timbre to create a touchingly fragile intimacy.
I Don’t Know and Hand In Hand are particularly moving ballads with vulnerable lyrics, whilst Dominoes and Do It Now marry his gift for sentimental melodies and heartfelt feeling to grandiose productions. Such glimpses of maturity lend a backbone of substance to an otherwise unabashedly frivolous parade of baroque pop rock.
Sir Paul may be amongst Britain’s most venerable musical statesmen but Egypt Station delights in defying the gravity of his own exalted station. It is the sound of an old rocker at full steam ahead, determined to keep on rolling for as long as he can.