Painting melodies on 'Egypt Station'
Paul McCartney began his musical career over 55 years ago in a little band you may have heard of – The Beatles. After The Beatles broke up, McCartney continued making music both on solo records and in his band Wings. Now he’s back with his first solo album in five years, “Egypt Station,” a 16-track album released on Friday, Sept. 7.
At 76 years old, without the haircut and boyish charm that invoked millions to be struck by ‘Beatlemania’ so many years ago, McCartney and his music still have the power to connect with and be loved by audiences of all ages.
“Egypt Station,” the album’s title, is based on a painting of McCartney’s and it signals the journey the album is meant to take listeners on. The journey begins with “Opening Station,” a 41-second track of simple ambient noise that puts listeners in a train station and prepares them for the remainder of the album.
One of the highlights of the record is its second track, “I Don’t Know.” Though it does give the album a slow and melancholy start, it’s a classic McCartney-style piano ballad. The song was written after going through a hard time in his life, when he was at a loss for what to do. McCartney repeatedly asks, “What’s the matter with me?” followed by his answer of, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” The song perfectly expresses the widely-experienced feeling of not knowing what’s going on in your life or what to do with yourself.
Another highlight off the album is a song McCartney wrote as an ode to his guitar. He said there was a time that he’d play his guitar all the time, but one day he looked at the instrument and realized he’d grown out of playing every minute of the day. He then decided to write a song to apologize, which turned into “Confidante.” This song displays McCartney’s genius as a songwriter with lyrics such as, “In our imaginary world / Where butterflies wear army boots and stomp the forests / chanting long lost anthems.”
“Despite Repeated Warnings” is one of McCartney’s classic epic songs that feature multiple themes, in similar fashion to his Wings hits “Live and Let Die” and “Band on the Run.” This time, the epic is directed at Donald Trump, though it’s told through the story of a ship captain who refuses to listen to his crew’s warnings. McCartney has said Trump is like a ship captain who’s been warned there are icebergs, yet continues to steer toward them. It’s little details that make these epics so beloved by McCartney – details such as when he sings: “What can we do to stop this foolish plan going through?” to the tune of an old sailor song, “Drunken Sailor.” Later he adds: “How can we stop him?/Grab the keys and lock him up/If we can do it, we can save the day,” followed closely by “Yes we can do it.” It’s a hopeful message that perhaps there is a way to stop those in power who, despite repeated warnings, continue not to listen and cause harm to those they lead.
Though there are many great songs on the album, one of the letdowns is the Ryan Tedder-produced “Fuh You.” This song fails for the very reason McCartney wanted it to succeed. McCartney wanted a hit, yet the final product just comes across as overly-produced and commercial – especially for someone who has been able to captivate an audience with just a piano and guitar for over half a century.
Regardless of some of the misses on the album, McCartney is a musical icon and songwriting legend. “Egypt Station” is another album guaranteed to please listeners for many years to come.