After 40 years, Paul McCartney is back with his third installment of homemade solo albums: ‘“McCartney III,” released just before Christmas. McCartney’s first self-titled album in 1970 was a raw and experimental DIY project recorded in response to the Beatles’ unraveling, with the second album following ten years later in 1980. It comes as no surprise that McCartney finally decided to continue the series of home-recorded projects as we entered lockdown last year. Like its predecessors, “McCartney III” follows an experimental and quirky path, giving us a glimpse of McCartney’s varying influences, ranging from quaint acoustic melodies to humor tracks to dark ballads.
McCartney’s first two home-recorded solos initially gathered poor reviews, with critics citing lack of quality and character in his solo work. They considered tracks on the first 1970 album as second-rate Beatles tracks, and many criticized the more distinct 1980 album for its experimental new wave and synth vibes. Despite all of that, most of us now appreciate the impact that these two albums had, with the first producing classics like “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Though “McCartney III” doesn’t reach as many experimental peaks as its predecessors and doesn’t have a specific focus, it surely derives influence from previous albums with hints of pop, indie rock, arena rock and more.
The album begins with a strong, plucky guitar solo on the track “Long Tailed Winter Bird” that is catchy and uplifting. However, the song drones on without the eventual hook you’d expect –– much like the album itself. The album continues with a few anthems; particularly, the second track “Find My Way” is a brassy pop tune featuring dreamy guitar licks and the harpsichord. Similar tracks include “Seize The Day,” a reflective poppy tune somewhat reminiscent of tracks that might’ve been on Queen’s “A Night At the Opera,” and “Deep Down,” a decent McCartney-esque filler track.
McCartney switches gears on the album with the occasional humor track and a ballad here and there. “Lavatory Lil” features a simple, hoppy beat that is strongly reminiscent of an Abbey Road-type track such as “Polythene Pam” or “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, with silly rhymes and essentially meaningless lyrics. McCartney takes a left turn on the more experimental track “Deep Deep Feeling,” steering toward an edgier and gloomier sound, repeating the line, “Sometimes I wish it would stay, sometimes I wish it would go.” Though it’s not clear what McCartney is talking about here, the track is definitely a worthwhile listen. The echoey vocals that conclude the song strongly resemble Alex Turner’s bad-boy voice, particularly on the Arctic Monkeys album “AM.”
Tracks that made the album for me included “The Kiss of Venus” and the final track, “Winter Bird / When Winter Comes.” “The Kiss of Venus” is a very English tune, with pleasant imagery of a ‘morning glow’ and ‘sweet summer air.’ The acoustic guitar and McCartney’s falsetto in the track recalls Pink Floyd’s “Fat Old Sun,” another delightful English tune dedicated to the beauty of nature. “Winter Bird / When Winter Comes” is a quaint and tear-jerking closer, originally recorded in 1992 with George Martin. The first 20 seconds picks up on the opener’s melody and transitions into a lovely little acoustic bit about the countryside, drawing on Beatles tracks such as “Mother Nature’s Son” and “I Will” –– some of McCartney’s best. Raw and simplistic, the song transports you to the English countryside and makes you long for a quiet life of tending to the sheep and sipping some tea.
Overall, McCartney’s long-awaited third home record proves that the 78-year-old still has it in him to crank out a few rock bangers and hummable tunes, which is, after all, what we best love him for. I give “McCartney III” a 4/5.