Album Review: Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom

By on Wednesday, 8th February 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

‘Kisses on the Bottom’, the fifteenth offering from pop institution Paul McCartney, is a blend of jazz classics with an odd Macca original stirred in. It was never likely to knock ‘Mull of Kintyre’ off its perch, or stop ‘Hey Jude’ being wheeled out for every goodwill mission, but an insistence on an empty kind of easy listening risks the album becoming just a kitsch footnote to a jaw-dropping back catalogue.

The title sounds like a dirty comment from an elderly relative: so desexualised by time that imagining the literal seems comic, but is still enough to raise a lump in the throat. Luckily, the brushed snare and teetering double bass slide so fluidly in to Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young‘s ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’ that the joke can be forgiven. Macca’s voice has returned with a light husk that compliments the beat-like cool in this intro; there’s a touch of ‘Kind of Blue’ without Miles Davis’ freewheelin’ trumpet heralding a plethora of improvisation.

‘Home (When Shadows Fall)’ has a lullaby-like quality (used to great effect in ‘The Shining’) but verges on Disney, lying closer to late Nina Simone (or that bloke off the Stella Artois advert) than its music hall roots. The front porch fiddle on ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’ gives it a honky tonk feel although – as with the sickly sweet ‘More I Cannot Wish You’ (obviously dusted off from the honeymoon) – McCartney brings in too little variation or dynamism. The flatlands continue through ‘The Glory of Love’ and ‘We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)’.

‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive’ is a sort of unknowing wink to the recent jazz revival (which may explain Jamie Cullum‘s soppy appraisal on the Guardian) and is so forcibly merry it should perhaps be contained to the odd rehab clinic. On the other hand, with ‘My Valentine’ McCartney’s emotion breaks from the prevailing monotony; creating a certain melancholy, with trademark Beatles key change and composition, and a Latino vibe that reminds you why in 2000 a BBC poll named him the “greatest composer of the millennium”.

Then the Stella Artois guy is pushed drunkenly back on to the midnight terrace, tinkering at the back of ‘Always’. The song possesses mellowness that smacks of honeymoon apathy, which is carried through the Hawaiian horizon of ‘My Very Good Friend the Milkman’. And so on, in to the redemptive ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ (which somehow manages to stick dangerously close to its Beatles namesake), the lamenting Sinatra croon of ‘Get Yourself Another Fool’ and the childish whimsy of ‘The Inch Worm’. On ‘Only Our Hearts’ he is dynamically unshackled, free to envisage the world through the spectrum of vintage film moments he has tied together. There’s more to keep you hooked in the first 30 seconds than the last 3 tracks combined, ending on an unmistakable harmonica outro by Stevie Wonder, which shows that, save the odd jaunt in to mediocrity, McCartney’s material should now be considered more classic than ‘the classics’.

6/10

Paul McCartney’s fifteenth (yes, you read that right, fifteenth) studio album ‘Kisses on the Bottom’ is out now on Hear Music/Mercury.

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