Paul McCartney 'McCartney III' Review: Beatles icon's 18th solo album is whimsical experimentation of a new era
"It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job. So, I just did stuff I fancied doing. I had no idea this would end up as an album.”
Paul McCartney is set to release his latest studio project, 'McCarney III', on December 11. The Beatles icon's 18th solo album, 'McCartney III' follows two years after 'Egypt Station' and serves as a continuation from his first two solo LPs, 'McCartney' (1970) and 'McCartney II' (1980). Like these two projects, the upcoming record was entirely helmed by McCartney on every instrument and in production while he faced an added challenge of recording amid lockdown this time around.
“I was living lockdown life on my farm with my family and I would go to my studio every day," explained McCartney of the recording process, according to Louder Sound. "I had to do a little bit of work on some film music and that turned into the opening track and then when it was done I thought what will I do next?
McCartney notes, "I had some stuff I’d worked on over the years but sometimes time would run out and it would be left half-finished so I started thinking about what I had. Each day I’d start recording with the instrument I wrote the song on and then gradually layer it all up, it was a lot of fun." He added, "It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job. So, I just did stuff I fancied doing. I had no idea this would end up as an album.”
Right off the bat, the album's opener, 'Long Tailed Winter Bird' (as heard in the trailer below), kicks off the album with a heightened sense of pep bold enough to signal the ushering of a new Paul McCartney era. Already an established titan of the industry, the song examples that McCartney is relaxed in his craft but its energies also go beyond that. It's powerfully gripping, yet he makes it all feel effortless, giving him the headspace to intellectually spice it up with a subtle aroma of unconventional new elements. 'Long Tailed Winter Bird' begins with a gritty acoustic riff that intertwines picking, strumming, guitar harmonics, and ushered with ease. Add in the haughty snap of the snare drum, crunchy distortion guitar, seeping-in psychedelia on the synth, and McCartney dropping a few tidbits of vocals, and you've got a promising start to a new McCartney project.
There's also a sense of fun on the album where it doesn't feel like McCartney is expecting fans to search for deeper meanings but enjoy it purely based on feeling. If the first two 'McCartney' projects are audio manifestations of his solo personality, this third iteration is his fun side, and appears whimsical at times. 'Lavatory Lil' revs up a notch with a country spin while the titular character fairs as a playful warning against golddiggers and women with a poisonous smile. Over an uptempo swinging guitar riff and bass-snare-bass-snare trot, McCartney sings lyrics like "You think that she's a winner when she's cooking you dinner. But she's really moving in for the kill" and "She says it's hunky-dory when she's telling you a story. But she really thinks you’re making her ill" and "You think she's being friendly, but she's looking for a Bentley. And she robbed golden swan."
Then you'll find tracks like the eight-minute 'Deep Deep Feeling' which comes off as a twisted love song, one you'll play before entering a rabbit hole of a toxic relationship. In some segments, piano delivers a cryptic melody and the song elevates into ghostly echoes of McCartney's vocals while carrying a jazzy swag for its foremost resonance.
In songs like 'The Kiss of Venus', McCartney hasn't wandered too far from his unique storytelling ability and delivers traditional themes for longtime fans. Similar can be said for the album's closer 'Winter Bird / When Winter Comes'.
Overall, 'McCartney III' places itself as a must-have for fans. There's variety, acute craftsmanship, and traces of experimentation that are not pompous or brash but tasteful enough to keep curiosities perked throughout the listening experience.