Flowers In The Dirt
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/18/2007
It’s interesting to count the number of times Paul McCartney has threatened to slip into irrelevance, only to come back swinging and win us over again. There was the shaky period following the immediate breakup of the Beatles, the meanderings of his first solo/Wings albums, most of the late 70s, and his career post-Pipes Of Peace.
Of all those rough patches, one would have to think that the late 80s were the most startling to Macca; simply given the sales numbers he faced and the bomb that was Give My Regards To Broad Street. His penchant for churning out unfocused work at this point was practically legendary, so basically things didn’t look so good on the whole.
However, once more like the phoenix rising from the ashes, McCartney came back and delivered his best work since 1982, and one of his stronger solo albums of all time. Things wouldn’t get this good again until his late-career renaissance following the death of his wife Linda.
Flowers In The Dirt seems to have gotten Paul’s full attention; i.e. he really tried to write strong songs instead of the blithering nonsense he had foisted upon the record public previously. It helps that four songs here are co-written with Elvis Costello, and while none of the four are the most mind-blowing pieces of music one will hear in their lifetime, they are solid collaborations.
The Beatle-esque pop usually featured on a Macca record is, for the most part, surprisingly absent from Flowers In The Dirt. Instead, we find the former Beatle stretching out a bit. The mid-album pairing of “Figures Of Eight,” and “This One” work quite well as arena-rock efforts, featuring a very “big” sound. “Rough Ride”and “How Many People” run the gamut from R&B to a touch of reggae.
But of course, the best moments are of what McCartney does best -- pop. “My Brave Face” is an underrated Macca single, featuring an incredibly catchy chorus and a bouncing melody that can’t help but put a smile on your face. Who knew Costello had such talent at writing a pop song? Of course, it wouldn’t be a McCartney album with a laid-back acoustic number, and “Put It There” is a simplistic yet pleasant contribution.
Not everything works on Flowers In The Dirt; the final two numbers, “Motor Of Love” and “Ou Est Le Soleil” kill all the momentum of the record. Both stretch on for too long, the former of which just plods on for six and a half minutes without finding any sort of decent groove or hook. And given that this was the 1980s, the production is occasionally lifeless.
Still, Flowers In The Dirt showed McCartney still cared and was willing to test his limits again. While not the greatest of his works, it is more than enough of a pleasing diversion and shows a man still in full control of his career.