Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Album Of The Day #115: ELECTRIC ARGUMENTS - The Fireman

In 1993, Paul McCartney teamed up with producer Youth for Strawberries Oceans Forests Ships (currently on iTunes) and called themselves The Fireman. The two got together again in 1998 for Rushes (currently out-of-print, sadly). Now, ten years later, they’ve gotten back together again for another go, this time with their names on the cover and with McCartney singing. The new LP is titled Electric Arguments.
The album kicks off with a harmonica bit, which is rather rare for McCartney. Nothing Too Much, Just Out Of Sight is an intense track that most McCartney fans have heard before, thanks to several tracks from the LP leaking. The track has this great drumming performance from McCartney. (By the way, no musicians are credited, although since he’s done it before, it isn’t such a stretch to believe that he performed everything.) It certainly takes me back to 1971’s RAM. McCartney’s muffled vocal sounds as if he hasn’t lost anything to age from that seminal LP.
Two Magpies is rumored to be an attack against Heather Mills and her sister. It is interesting that McCartney chose The Fireman as an outlet to air his anger, but I suppose he didn’t want to put it in his main line of studio albums. Anyway the track has this jazzy/sideshow feel, a la “Honey Pie” or “Your Mother Should Know”. It feels like an attack hidden behind a dense veil. Next is Sing The Changes, which is a breezy, uplifting track. Again, there is great drumming, proving how Paul is not just a master of bass, but of percussion. It melts into Traveling Light with this cool feel that certainly is reminiscent of the previous two Fireman LPs. “Traveling Light” is a pretty freaky track that resembles the ambient tracks on Strawberries Oceans Forests Ships. It’s this stuff that makes McCartney’s partnership with Youth interesting because Youth adds a certain ‘space’ to McCartney’s songs that neither David Khane on Driving Rain (2001) and Memory Almost Full (2007) nor Nigel Godrich on Chaos And Creation In The Backyard (2005) could.
The rocking Highway follows without even a second of silence and brings in even more harmonica playing, taking us back to “Nothing Too Much, Just Out Of Sight”. This track is more piano-driven and it certainly fits with previous McCartney ‘driving’ songs like “Helen Wheels” and “Driving Rain”. Next is the stomping Light From Your Lighthouse. Again, like many of the tracks, it’s very brisk and quick, plus it is so cool to hear a ‘McCartney chorus’.
Sun Is Shining is a quiet, beautiful track that begins with a long acoustic guitar intro, before breaking into this lovely song. It proves to be a great transition to the next track, Dance ‘Til We’re High. It’s probably my least favorite track from the LP, with its sweeping string arrangement during the chorus and with it being probably the most conservative (despite the title) track.
Following that is the wonderful Lifelong Passion, which was initially released last year as a benefit for one of the many charities McCartney sponsors. It really is an amazing, rolling track with this very Eastern feel. The track completely fits in with the rest of the material, which is usually a problem for artists who incorporate previously released tracks made for soundtracks, charities, etc. into albums even if they have a completely different feeling. Is This Love? is a perfect choice for the next track, as it opens with a flute that sounds as if it just continued playing after “Lifelong Passion”.
Lovers In A Dream opens, with all things, what sounds like a cello against guitars. Now, this is the Fireman at his finest and it resembles the tracks on Rushes. It features no vocals, just a barely audible chant from McCartney, over this bizarre mix of instruments…just the type of everyday stuff for the Fireman. The quiet piano playing makes a seamless transition to Universe Here, Everlasting Now. This is another track that is just like the stuff on Rushes. It feels like ambient white noise for the first two minutes, before drums come in and we get moving. This is the type of music that allows you to just sit back and experience it. With about a minute left, it goes back to a solo piano sequence, which takes us to the last track, Don’t Stop Running. McCartney’s vocals come back and it mixes perfectly with this groove that comes from these great guitars. It’s just a great, perfect track to end the album.
Overall, Electric Arguments proves to be McCartney’s first true masterpiece of the century. There is none of the awful vocals of Driving Rain, the heavy-handed emotions of Chaos And Creation or the childish lyrics of Memory Almost Full. It is just engaging, consistently entertaining and, most importantly, enjoyable.

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