By The Fireman (Paul McCartney & Youth)
ELECTRIC ARGUMENTS is the THIRD album by The Fireman, the music duo consisting of Paul McCartney and producer Youth.
November 24th, 2008 was its release date. It is the first Fireman release to be publicly acknowledged by McCartney, and the album cover features the names of both contributors.
Unlike the earlier Fireman albums, Electric Arguments features prominent vocals. Each of the songs was recorded in one day, the album itself being completed in only thirteen days, spread over the course of a year.
The album includes the hidden track “Road Trip“, at the end of “Don’t Stop Running“.
Remixes of “Lifelong Passion” were made, titled “Sawain Ambient Acapella” and “Sawain Instrumental Dub“.
Instrumental mixes of “Sun Is Shining” and “Traveling Light” were made, titled “Equinox Instrumental” and “Travelling Light Instrumental”.
Instrumental dub mixes were made of “Sing the Changes” and “Don’t Stop Running“, titled “Morning Mist Instrumental Dub” and “Wickerman Ambient Dub”.
The duo borrowed the title “Electric Arguments” from the poem “Kansas City to St. Louis” by Allen Ginsberg.
McCartney stated this was because he had been looking “at the beauty of word combinations rather than their meaning.”
Paul: “We had a ball making this album, and it was a great departure because it seemed more like improvisation theater. In the improvisation spirit, there are William Burroughs-type cut-ups in the lyrics.
I came to “Sing the Changes,” as well as all the other songs in the album, with absolutely no concept of what the melody or lyrics would be about. So it was like writing on the spot, which I think lent an electricity to the whole sound.”
The album debuted at number 79 on the UK Album Charts, marking the first appearance for The Fireman in the British charts. The duo also made their inaugural appearance on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 67. The album was acclaimed by critics, cited as one of the best albums of 2008.
AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine: “There are more twists and turns, more textures, than on any other McCartney album in the last 20 years …”
Will Hermes of Rolling Stone: “The ex-Beatle’s headiest music in years“.
Electric Arguments demonstrates that Paul McCartney is still interested in pure musical possibilities. This is an album set to both surprise and delight the listener. Made with no record company restraints or a set release date to work to, Electric Arguments was made with complete artistic and creative freedom.
When I bought and listened for the first time…I heard a noticeable change in McCartney’s singing voice. Now, since then he has released three albums, NEW, EGYPT STATION and III. I have heard his voice shift even more to what it is… and listening to this 2008 recording makes me realize I was wrong.
His voice is amazing, and captured in so many ways on the album. This to me is more of a solo album for Paul, with Youth as the very hands on producer. He helps with the tracks in other ways than Paul’s other producers.
But Paul makes nearly every sound, with little if any help. Youth is an outstanding producer, and this is what makes this album so great. He was able to take the talent of McCartney and help sound shape each track, and with 100% Paul in charge they make each fresh and unique. Each recorded in one day, over months….
All Songs by Paul McCartney
(Credits listed on song 1 for entire album)
1. Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight
Paul McCartney :
Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Harmonica, Producer, Slide guitar, Vocals
Youth : Producer
Clive Goddard : Recording engineer
Tim Bran & David Nock : Programming
Session Recording: December 2007 – June 2008. Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK
-I sit…. And what is the first sound in my ears… Paul on some funky harmonica. Yes, this album is going somewhere. It stops…. The drum kicks in, and he gives us one of the most intense recordings of his career.
Paul growls like we heard 40 years earlier on “Heater Skelter.” Run thru a filter, it is a chilling reminder how good this 68 year old man still was. The guitar work keeps up until a joyous Paul drags it across the finish line. Rating – 9.25
2. Two Magpies
– Paul takes it down and it is a lovely little ditty. He uses his Bill Black stand-up bass to give it a timeless feel. And what a beautiful slightly squeaky voice. And the lyrics are outstanding on this and every song. Paul gives it 100%. Rating – 9
3. Sing The Changes
– Here it is, the masterpiece he is able to come up with at least once an album, In 2008 this is not a hit single, but it should have been. Recorded with his touring drummer, this is just a wonderful, powerful song. The cheap music video doesn’t do it justice. Abe Laboriel Jr. drumming is always special. Rating – 9.5
4. Travelling Light
-Paul takes us on a journey. His use of the recorder (much like “Fool On The Hill”) and lower register in the first stanza gives this song the travel feel it’s title tells…. Paul takes it to his upper register on the second verse, and today it sounds sweet and warm. He lowers his key and the journey continues….
Then do you know what Paul does…. He changes the tempo at 3:45 and wraps up the story…. A bit like “Despite Repeated Warnings”. Rating – 8
Another one he played in concert (“Sing The Changes”) that has nice chord changes and hooks, and Paul again breaks out the harmonica. Paul’s vocals are kind of kind of muddy and mixed a bit back in the mix for my taste. And he runs the main vocals thru a processor but not any of the background vocals. Interesting spiritual vibe you don’t get in many of Macca’s songs. Outstanding playing. Rating – 8.5
6. Light From Your Lighthouse
-Okay, here is the biggest gainer for me since the album came out. Let that foot start tapping and you have maybe the best good time spiritual boogie of his career. He nails the acoustic solo, the vocals are beyond amazing. The production is perfect. Rating – 9.25
7. Sun Is Shining
-A nice mid tempo rocker, with Paul’s drums driving the tempo. Outstanding acoustic guitars in the mix help Paul’s double track vocals (at times a bit off but it sounds good). A weak middle eight and back to the main verse as Paul’s bass runs lead us out…. Rating – 8.5
8. Dance ‘Til We’re High
–Youth uses a Phil Spector type production and Paul is double tracked on the verse, one low and one upper.
Another love song that Paul writes so well about living for today, saying you love to people, do it now etc…. Let the rain run down your back…. Oh yeah, see the day and dance until you get high. Sounds good to me…. Naive, but if we all believed it. Rating – 8.5
9. Lifelong Passion
-A bit like “Caeser Rock” into before the cut, this is a very tribal sounding acoustic track. Paul uses different types of drums.
A gentle love song with harmonica and more /synths/recorder and bird sounds and all kids of tweaks and squeaks in the sonic portrait. These guys had a wonderful time mixing this album. Paul is smart enough to change tempo’s from song to song. Rating. – 8.5
10. Is This Love?
Take us to the banks of the river, and then we gaze at the sights, smell the air, see the sky, feel the wind, hear the sounds…
Paul vocals are taken back in the mix and are almost hard to understand…. But I find no fault in this as this is almost a ceremonial track. As the song goes on our procession continues to move towards the ceremonial alter. A gentle moving song of devotion. As we arrive it gets ultra trippy… we are here.
Rating – 8.5
11. Lovers In A Dream
The song opens with a slow building of the layers and tempo and we have the first “dance” beat. Paul’s vocals are very Roxy Music or Bowie, and I guess that’s not bad. Kind of an homage, that doesn’t go anywhere lyrically, but is interesting musically. The end slows and de-layers.. Rating – 8.5
12. Universal Here, Everlasting Now
Paul opens with a simple piano and I’m like… “Oh yeah, he plays piano too.” But it’s too late, we have dogs and noises and then it’s on to 5:05 of sounds/shifts/stops/piano intro… but no dogs. The least imaginative track, for me. Rating – 7
13. Don’t Stop Running
-Much like “Deep Deep Feeling” from III, you have to let yourself go and enjoy the ride. Imagine this 10:31 song as a roller coaster ride. There are twists and turns, but getting in and letting the vehicle do the work and enjoying the feeling of the ride is the way to go. The backwards vocals at the end foreshadow “Road Trip’s” ending. This is a song to be listened to… not just put on the stereo. Rating – 9
4. Road Trip
The not so “hidden” track at the end of “Don’t Stop Running.” I view this as a bonus track, but it shows that they still have a few of their original Fireman moves in their arsenal. This is another slowly evolving landscape that also features backwards spoken words (?) And the feeling is this is the end of the journey…. Rating – 8. Not a song per say, but I like how they leave us to think, as we sit on the side of the road.
Over all this album by The Fireman rates as 8.57, one of the finest ratings yet. He took changes he wouldn’t in one of his normal releases, and maybe that’s why it still sound so good.
NEXT UP: III Imagined
SOON, gulp….. His classical work, where we’ll be reviewing on feel… We’ll discuss that later. You mission, listen to this album…and leave your impressions. Headphones recommended.