The music industry is a troubled place when it comes to ageing rock stars. In a world where bands have multiple Last Ever Tours and the likes of The Who and The Rolling Stones still continue to rock stadiums around the world despite being deep into their 70s, the way Paul McCartney has been going about his musical career in the last few years has been a genuine surprise. While yes, he still does mammoth tours, his musical output has seen him grow old gracefully with a more stripped back style and his own trademark melodic stamp.
Egypt Station, McCartney’s 18th solo album, continues the more mature output, which sees the former Beatle in a confident and heartfelt place. McCartney has never been happier and his music, which resembles the early energy of the first four Beatles records, supremely represents that. In fact, everything from the musical style to his recent gigs at Abbey Road and the legendary Cavern Club, sees McCartney looking back into the past and delving deeper into his early rock and roll roots, as well as touches of his Wings output too.
After a short, atmospheric intro the album instantly gets into its groove with AA-side singles ‘I Don’t Know and ‘Come On To Me’. While the former opens with a luscious piano ballad, soon focussing on McCartney’s recognisably husky vocals, the latter is more of a foot stomper, and arguably the catchiest song of the lot. Even with just these two songs, and later with ‘Happy With You’, easily the finest song on the record, McCartney is showing range he hasn’t done for years.
The lead singles are, of course, out and out rock and roll singles, but ‘Happy With You’ shows McCartney’s softer side. Like an updated version of the sincere melancholy of ‘When I’m 64’, it’s a heartfelt number directed towards his wife Nancy Shevell. “I walked around angry / I used to feel bad… I used to drink too much / Forgot to come home / I lied to my doctor” he announces with brute honesty, and intense love brimming from every utterance.
There’s certainly enough for the casual Beatles fan in Egypt Station, too. While ‘People Want Peace’s opening evokes Sgt Pepper with its introductory tale of: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m standing before you with something important to say,” in the vein of Billy Shears, the record finishes on a medley much like Abbey Road’s phenomenal finale with an ending that shows McCartney at his most open. “I‘ve been naked for so long / So long, so long, yeah,” he asserts, with the sort of openness we haven’t seen from the man for a very long time. Honest, candid, and oh so sincere, this is a glimpse into the psyche of a musical hero.
Egypt Station is a retro bop that works wholesomely because it not only sounds unique, but it embraces where McCartney is now, unlike many albums made by his contemporaries. Many of McCartney’s critics will often point to his mediocre output over the past 20 years, but this is not only a return to form, it’s a celebration from past to present of one of the greatest songwriters of our times.