After a five year gap since his last release, New in 2013, Paul McCartney has released his seventeenth solo record Egypt Station on his long time label, Capital Records. The name Egypt Station is shared by one of McCartney’s paintings from 1988, from which the cover art is derived. The record has become McCartney’s first number one album in the United States since the 1982 release Tug of War and the first to debut on top of the Billboard 200.
Egypt Station has a deeply eccentric song cycle along the same mode as the Ram release. McCartney relishes on this record, an adventure that is framed like a musical journey, starting with the short Opening Station before moving on to the album’s lead singles, the mid-tempo I Don’t Know and the genteel-yet-randy Come on to Me as a more rock stomping number. Throughout the album McCartney with producer, Greg Kurstin, makes stops and starts along the way that revisit both his past and some new places. On the uncharacteristically Fuh You (the only song on the record produced by Ryan Tedder), Paul has more on his mind than just cuddling. The lyric ‘I just want it / Fuh you’ is a G-rated affair, even though it sounds more like he’s singing ‘I just wanna fuh you’.
With Egypt Station, McCartney is specifically interested in playing with the new breed of modern artists. This includes teaming up with Kanye West, a fellow creative all-rounder with words, music, contemporary ubiquity, as he did for the Rihanna-fronted FourFiveSeconds in 2015.
Egypt Station flows as a unit, structured like a long ride on a cosmic train, beginning and ending with ambient railway-station noise. McCartney mixes pastoral acoustic reveries like Confidante with intimate piano confessions like Do It Now. The album’s masterpiece Dominoes, one of those Paul creations that feels both emotionally direct yet playfully enigmatic. With an eerie acoustic guitar hook, builds for almost five minutes, complete with an old-school guitar solo and the disarming farewell line.
He reminisces about his drug use on Happy With You, friendships on Confidante and life plan on Dominoes, while still making room to hate on Trump for almost seven minutes on Despite Repeated Warnings. And he tears through it all with some genuinely tough songs like Who Cares and Caesar Rock. Despite Repeated Warnings is a majestic, melodramatic mini-epic that builds from a gentle lament to a rebellious rallying cry punctuated by soulful horns and intense strings. The album-closing medley Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link is a like a detour at the very end, a three-part, six-minute medley that recalls McCartney’s more experimental work in its freewheeling frenzy to cram several ideas into one song. However, getting there, is the heart of this journey.
The record goes on a little too long with sixteen tracks, with some songs falling into the forgettable modern pop circle that’s weighed down McCartney records for more than half his life. However there is a renewed sense of energy and purpose even more so than on his last release New, which reconciled the legend who reshaped popular music in this century with the artist who still has something to say. As time moves on, one of music’s great music voices has not and will not stand still, even if he occasionally stumbles along the way, his song-writing shows no strain. Paul is still one of the greatest songwriters of our time at connecting between verse and chorus; some of the songs on this release are his melodically strongest in years.
Album Review by Rob Lyon