CD Review – The Fireman – Electric Arguments – One Little Indian 8 out of 10
‘The Fireman’ is a collaborative project featuring British Music legend Paul McCartney, and the producer Youth and Electric Arguments is their third album, and the first to feature vocals.
McCartney’s distinctive vocals are to the fore on this collection of 13 new songs, some of which are pure pop, some blues, and some more experimental offerings more in tune with their previous offering Rushes.
As the two collaborators are bass players, it perhaps surprising that the instruments does not feature more, but the album contains more than enough musical interest and activity. There is no indication of musicians on the albums, that would indicate that McCartney plays all of the instruments himself, with the musicianship being as accomplished as we have come to expect from one of the most important post-war musicians and composers.
McCartney set himself the task of writing each of the songs in the studio, and only giving each piece a day, which mean that they crackle with an energy missing in some of his latest work. Songs such as ‘Sing the Changes’ and ‘Dance till we’re high’ with its Phil Spectorish musical soundscapes and soaring strings have a life to them, with Paul’s multi-tracked vocals adding more the mix. ‘Highway’ has a chorus that shows he has been listening to modern music, with a hint of the Kaiser Chiefs, whilst the Johnny Cash like vocals on ‘Travelling Light’ show another dimension.
The album starts with a blast of Harmonica and impassioned vocals on opener ‘Nothing too much just out of sight’ with screaming slide guitars and distorted guitars, giving Eric Clapton a run for his money. The sense of adventure is infectious, and it shows a master-musician at the top of his powers, under a mask which allows him to do the unexpected, whilst maintaining much of his musical identity.
The second half of the album is a lot more experimental, with more sound effects and textures thrown into the audio mix. ‘Lifelong Passion’ features a Beatles like Mellotron part with a number of other instruments giving an almost mantra like ambience, whilst ‘Is this Love?’ features a keyboard and whistle opening that would not be out of place on a Celtic album, and also includes backwards guitar and ethnic percussion sounds.
‘Lovers in a dream’ also features an eerie opening, with a number of sound effects, keyboards, subliminal vocals and electric guitar harmonics before a rock drum pattern takes the song in a different direction altogether. The piano and almost Gregorian chant vocals which feature on the track also add a new sound. The largely piano driven ‘Universal Here, everlasting now’ features a haunting piano refrain, and a number of sound effects, like a telephone, and bird song.
Album closer ‘Don’t stop running’ clocks in at 10 minutes and 28 seconds and covers perhaps the most ground, sound not unlike Afro Celt Sound System at their most expansive.
All told, this is an extremely accomplished album, containing more ideas and energy than most bands can manage in a career. It is a sobering thought that this album is a side project for a man who is now 66.