Memory Almost Full

Paul McCartney

Hear Music, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


In many ways, Paul McCartney cannot win. Considering that the man is a Beatle billionaire, one of the few who has taken care of himself and his family for generations to come, and one who has written some of the best songs of the rock era, it's surprising how many still rip on Paul for his post-Beatles fare.

There is no way Paul will live up to anything he wrote between 1963 and 1970. Get over it. The man is a solid songwriter and on his latest disc, Memory Almost Full, he delivers a solid disc that falls short of his best solo work. It most  resembles his self-titled solo albums.

Where Chaos And Creation In the Backyard delighted audiences with its subtle, understated nature, Memory Almost Full hauls off in the opposite direction toward Vegas. The pure showmanship that McCartney has always flaunted is in full display, and since no one quite knows pop like Sir Paul, the entire album shines with bright, colored and full performances. Even a theoretical, bare-bones track like “Dance Tonight” can’t escape small flourishes here and there.

In many ways, the discrepancy between this album and its predecessor make for the ultimate yin/yang of Paul McCartney. When the man tries for introspective pop, as he did on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Chaos, he can deliver. When he feels like churning out music with little substance below the surface, he pulls it off. Both are exhibited here on Memory Almost Full. The first half of the record, save “Only Mama Knows,”  finds McCartney grappling to grab a hold of “something,” which leads to the decidedly scattershot quality of the songs. The man has certainly had better singles than “Dance Tonight,” and “Ever Present Past,” and mixed genres more effectively than on “Gratitude.”

About midway through the proceedings, Memory Almost Full start to find its footing. “Mr. Bellamy” draws comparisons to some of the avant-garde pop that populated Band On The Run, and “You Tell Me” revels in its status as the most Beatle-sounding track on the entire record. The aforementioned “Only Mama Knows” delighted me, as this song is basically the 2007 version of “Jet” and find McCartney at his most rocking. After the slow and deliberate pacing of Chaos, it’s great to hear the man let loose.

The suite/medley that comprises the second half of Memory is the most interesting listening on the entire disc. It's not quite Abbey Road, but work that only a 64-year old McCartney could have delivered. Starting with “Vintage Clothes” and ending with “The End Of The End,” Macca somehow manages to avoid a cliched trip down memory lane and reflects over his life in a meaningful and interesting way.

Specifically, “House Of Wax” and “The End Of The End,” represent the best one-two punch in McCartney’s catalogue since… well let us just say it’s been a while. The chilling intro to the former is only the tip of the iceberg; it slowly gathers some menacing momentum before exploding into blistering guitar solo upon solo, screaming chorus upon chorus, etc. This is a compelling side of McCartney that he so rarely shows. Meanwhile, “The End Of The End” finds the former Beatle in a most contemplative mood, mulling an end to a life that has been so good to him. To McCartney, the eternal optimist, if this life wasn’t so bad, then “a much better place would have to be special.”

If anything, Memory Almost Full further demonstrates McCartney makes his best music when working with a strong collaborator to rein him in. It does not reach the same level of quality as Chaos, but it is far from an embarrassing effort. It is obvious Paul has reached a certain level of contentment now in his life, and on some level is prepared for the end, whenever it may come. That alone has given him a clarity that could not have existed when he was first writing about being 64.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hear Music, and is used for informational purposes only.