Album: Paul McCartney

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, PARLOPHONE
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It's hard to know where to start. The lyrics are simply dire, with the accent on simple, stuffed with the kind of fulsome tributes to some emotional saviour (God? The missus?), pleas for reconciliation, and earnest feelgood sentiments that one might expect from an asinine American self-help guru or a wide-eyed religious neophyte after a few weeks' industrious brainwashing, but not from a canny operator like McCartney: "Laugh when your eyes are burning/ Smile when your heart is filled with pain? Make a vow that you're going to be happy again"; "You lift up my spirits / You shine on my soul/ Whenever I'm empty/ You make me feel whole"; and so on. Even worse are the occasions when he tries to be a bit clever, which result in the cringeworthy stuff about "chaos and creation" in "Fine Lines", and the quite ghastly couplet "Do you know the game croquet? Peradventure we might play" in "English Tea", a song which would have been roundly laughed out of a Beatles session; "very twee, very me", indeed.

The key lines, though, are those which seem to offer subconscious hints at McCartney's problem: "It's not so good when you're on your own", and particularly "I've spent a lot of time on my own", something which is blindingly obvious, and not just through his playing nearly every instrument on most tracks, polishing turds desperately with layer upon layer of guitars, keyboards, percussion, melodica, autoharp, even recorder and flugelhorn. The crucial element missing in these songs is not instrumental, it's the presence of a decisive contrast or combative collaborator at an earlier stage in their development - the kind of thing John Lennon provided when he changed "Never been a beauty queen" to "You know what I mean" in "I Saw Her Standing There". The kind of thing Jagger and Richards are still able to do for each other, judging by A Bigger Bang. McCartney is said to have been initially taken aback when Godrich requested he rethink some songs, but really, he needed much firmer criticism. By the time Godrich gets to stick his oar in, they're already too far gone to salvage.

Frankly, if this is what happens when McCartney quits smoking dope, he might be best advised to bear Bill Hicks' observation in mind, and fire up a fat one at the first opportunity.