IN PLACES, NEW is a continuation of the pre-Beatles recall of 2007’s Memory Almost Full. But it lacks the punch and consecutive songcraft of that record. There we had ‘See Your Sunshine’, BOOM, ‘You Tell Me’, BOOM, ‘Mr. Bellamy’, BOOM, and the sublime ‘Feet In The Clouds’ followed by ‘House Of Wax’, DOUBLE BOOM! But with New there’s none of that endless McCartney face-slapping that I and others like me would masochistically repeat play for to gladly suffer a re-run of the abuse.
Who knows why? Some say multiple producers, as is the case here, can render an album stultifying. But I’d say it’s a song thing in this case. The highest quality material lives in the first half. That is if you’re expecting to be slapped in the face.
The opener and Paul Epworth-produced ‘Save Us’ instantly grabbed me as a kind of Foo Fighters meets Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ hybrid, if let down by the characterless splat of an over-compressed snare drum. But the diminished chord that dresses the chorus hook recalls ‘70s Macca and sets you up to expect more of the same. And you do get mood memories like the London Town shanty of ‘Alligator’ and the dynamic interruptions of the Back To The Egg-like ‘On My Way To Work’.
Second single ‘Queenie Eye’ drips with Mellotron and signature McCartney piano vamps until suddenly at 2:09 it drops away to 30 seconds of watery grooveless space before bouncing back to the chorus. It’s a strong dynamic forward-moving song that could’ve easily worked on a Wings album.
Two songs later we get the title track and its pleasant ‘Penny Lane’/‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ similarities, and then it’s over for me. The remaining songs don’t jump out even with repeated listenings and the production does little to make them sound impressive and in your face. It’s simply not there in the way that David Kahne brought Memory Almost Full to life.
The rock songs don’t burst with the vitality of something like, say, ‘Getting Closer’ from Back To The Egg, and the one ballad contender, ‘Scared’, hides its light under a bushel as a hidden track. I do appreciate the humour of the closer ‘Get Me Out Of Here’: ‘When we fight I don’t know what to say/It feels so bad and yet I can’t run away/Oh boy, Someone get me out of here/I’m a celebrity’.
Thirty years ago I would’ve laughed if anyone had suggested any of the current crop would still be doing this at 70. It just wouldn’t have seemed realistic. It’s probably silly of me to compare his new work to his past highest standards and expect a repeat performance or even a masterpiece. But I still think he’s got one in him. PETER KEARNS
Sound = 3.5/5
Music = 3/5