The release of new Paul McCartney music is always a hugely exciting event. Pressing ‘play’ for the first time, not knowing what you’ll hear but hoping it will live up to expectations… there’s nothing like it. Egypt Station, his first studio album since 2013’s New, is finally here. The title is based on a painting of Paul’s from 1988 — but does it sound as interesting as it looks? Here’s a track by track breakdown.
Just 42 seconds long, this is not so much a song as an introduction to the album, giving the sense that we are on a train, arriving at the first stop on our journey. Which is…
I Don’t Know
As one half of the double A-side single that was released over the summer, fans will already have been familiar with this song. A piano-based ballad, it’s an interesting choice of album opener, but definitely a strong start. Lyrically it’s quite personal, with Paul expressing some uncertainty (“What’s the matter with me/I don’t know”), a trait that hasn’t often come through in his work. Musically it’s a classic McCartney ballad, with a lovely chord structure and melody.
Come On to Me
Then we have the second half of the single, which Paul debuted live in Liverpool for his appearance on Carpool Karaoke. It’s a pretty straightforward rocker with simple lyrics (as the title suggests, it is indeed about coming on to someone), but that’s the beauty of it; you just want to dance and sing along. It’s got a catchy riff and some killer brass that’s reminiscent of Wings.
Happy with You
Quite a few people have said that this reminds them of ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, and that’s exactly what I thought too when I first heard it. It’s the same style of fingerpicked acoustic guitar that Paul has used many times over the years, and it really is a winning formula. It’s about being happy and content with life and its simple pleasures, after years of getting “wasted and stoned”.
We’re getting back into rock and roll territory here. This is an anti-bullying song (“Who cares what the idiots say?”) which I think will mean a lot to anyone who has ever been a victim of other people’s cruelty. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on New, in my opinion. It’s also another powerful vocal performance, proving that he can still crank it up when he wants to.
The second single from the album, I have to admit I did not like this at all. The initial reaction from fans was, “Did Paul really just use the ‘F’ word in this song?” Of course he didn’t, but that was the implication — or at least we thought it was. That was until Paul himself explained that he was really singing, “I just want it for you”, but liked the fact that it would confuse people. Hmm. Either way, the idea that a 76-year-old man might just be singing about the joys of sex horrified more than a few people, but not me. Why shouldn’t he sing about it? The reason I disliked this song had nothing to do with the lyrical content, and everything to do with Ryan Tedder’s production. To me it just sounds like any number of generic tracks currently in the charts. That said, you can bet I’ll still be singing along with it when I see him…
This is another acoustic track that, at first, seems to be about friendship. And in a way it is, but lines like “My underneath the staircase friend” make you realise that Paul is not singing about a fellow human being, but his beloved guitar. It reminds me of ‘Early Days’ from the previous album in that it’s nostalgic. The older he gets, Paul seems to be turning more and more to his childhood and teenage years for lyrical inspiration. Some of the lines are a bit clunky, but it’s a pretty tune.
People Want Peace
It surprised me that this song didn’t go down well with some fans, who thought it was a bit pointless and preachy, but I disagree. Peace is a subject that has loomed large in each of the Beatles’ solo catalogues, so I don’t see the issue. I quite like it.
Hand in Hand
We’ve reached the halfway point now, and for me, this is where it really picks up. It’s one of the prettiest melodies on the album, and it’s got a beautiful chord sequence on the piano, a flute solo and a really enchanting vocal. It was the point when I thought to myself, “I think this is my favourite song on the album so far.” But there were more of those moments to follow…
According to Paul, this song began after an argument of some description, and the basic message is that everything will be okay and life goes on. The idea of dominoes falling is a metaphor for how one small action can have a big effect. For me it’s one of the strongest songs.
Back in Brazil
Described by Paul as “an imaginary story of two young Brazilian people”, the idea for the song came to him while he was on tour in Brazil. It incorporates Latin American rhythms and will no doubt be a hit with audiences there. Confusingly, Paul and the band shout the word “Ichiban!” repeatedly, which is not Portuguese but Japanese. Paul has an explanation for this, however, which you can read about here.
Do It Now
Paul has based several songs on things his father used to say, such as ‘Put It There’ from 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt, and ‘Do It Now’ is another of those songs. It’s an ode to grabbing opportunities, and not leaving things too late. It’s also another classic Paul melody. I for one am grateful to Jim McCartney for inspiring so much great material!
Now this is an epic! It’s seven minutes of Paul and the band jamming — and there’s that ‘rock voice’ again. The lyric is officially “She’s a rock” but is sung to sound like “Caesar rock”, working in the Egyptian connection. It’s very much one of those “let’s play and see what happens” songs, and it’s fun.
Despite Repeated Warnings
I think it’s fair to say that this was the most hotly anticipated song on the album, ever since Paul teased us last year that he had written something about Donald Trump — and oh boy, did he deliver the goods! There is an air of ‘Band on the Run’ and ‘Live and Let Die’ about this track, as it’s got several changes and a big orchestral arrangement. The lyrics very clearly reference Trump: “The captain won’t be listening”, “He’s got his own agenda”, “What can we do to stop this foolish plan going through” and, of course, “Grab the keys and lock him up.” Of all the songs on Egypt Station, this is the one that really made me punch the air and go, “Yes, Paul!”
A return to the train theme, as this little 46-second piece reminds us that we’re getting very near the end, to paraphrase Sgt Pepper.
Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link
And the album ends on a high, with another dose of vintage McCartney. This is a medley in the spirit of Abbey Road, though of course not nearly as long, at almost six and a half minutes. It ends with quite a bluesy instrumental section.
In conclusion, Egypt Station might just be Paul’s most adventurous album in years. It’s not quite a concept album, as he implied, but you’re certainly left with the feeling of having been on a journey. I love it!