You have to admire Paul McCartney’s work ethic. He’s a man with nothing to prove. Zero. His art has shaped the world we live in. He’s 76 years old. He’s one of a handful of bona fide music legends still standing. And yet here he is, putting it on the line again, not worrying about his legacy or resting on his laurels. ‘Egypt Station’ is his 17th post-Beatles album; he doesn’t need the money or the adulation, which only leaves compulsion to keep making music – and that’s an impulse worth applauding, because it’s easily lost.
This year has seen McCartney indulging in nostalgia, revisiting Abbey Road and The Cavern, and popping up in his old Liverpool haunts on the Carpool Karaoke charabanc. On ‘Egypt Station’, a title that itself rings with the breezy Edward Lear nonsense beloved of The Beatles, McCartney does the same, musically, taking us on a tour de force of his own career.
“‘Egypt Station’ is a record that’s going to delight McCartney’s fans and – importantly – Beatles fans”
The thunderous opening of ‘People Want Peace’ (“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m standing before you with something important to say,” it begins) recalls the title track of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The bossa nova bop of ‘Back In Brazil’ speaks to his love of borrowing from other cultures. ‘Do It Now’ is baroque pop in the ‘In My Life’ vein. ‘Who Cares’ sounds like ‘Band On The Run’-era Wings, a swaggering rock ‘n’ roll with a sweetly naive message about getting one over on bullies. It has the feeling of a pep talk from a beloved granddad: “Who cares what the idiots say / Who cares what the idiots do / Who cares about the pain in your heart / Who cares? I do.”
McCartney’s been preaching peace and love for an entire career, and the message hasn’t diminished over the years. But there’s an extra edge to it this time. ‘Fuh You’, a track co-written with hit-maker Ryan Tedder (though surely if there’s a man who doesn’t need a co-write, it’s Macca) is eyebrow-raisingly randy. ‘Come On To Me’, another track released to tease the album, is plonky in sound, but bonky in lyrics: “I saw you flash a smile that seemed to me to say / You wanted so much more than casual conversation,” it goes. Paul McCartney, by design or accident, has made an album that occasionally pulses with Big Dick Energy, the term that defined summer 2018’s zeitgeist, even if it pops a comfy pair of slippers occasionally too.
Mostly, ‘Egypt Station’ is a record that’s going to delight McCartney’s fans and – importantly – Beatles fans who might sniff at some of his solo work. It’s not wildly out there, like his work as The Fireman, but nor does it err on the safe side, like 2013’s ‘New’. It’s an album of upbeat and winsome notes, and it’s simple and honest, as if one of the most famous people in the world has left his diary open for us to read.
‘Happy With You’ talks about just what the title implies – being happy in the company of his partner, with personal revelations too: “I walked around angry / I used to feel bad… I used to drink too much / Forgot to come home / I lied to my doctor”. That song, and ‘Confidante’, reveal much about McCartney, the latter a love letter to the guitar he keeps in the corner of his living room, which went largely untouched for a couple of years before ‘Egypt Station’ came into being. Those tracks, in particular, preach a satisfying message of peace: one of peace in the mind of the songwriter.
The album ends, like ‘Abbey Road’, on a medley: ‘Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link’. We don’t need to remind you of ‘Abbey Road’’s famous closing lines, but ‘Egypt Station’s are notable too: “I‘ve been naked for so long / So long, so long, yeah.” McCartney’s always been about inclusivity and openness, but this latest glimpse into his life feels like a particularly enlightening one.