Released on October 13th, 2013, NEW is striking with its simple. It has colored light bars fixtures to spell or at least make you think you see the title. The Japanese and expanded editions were released in alternate colors.
It’s simplicity, combined with its feeling of optimism had me crossing my fingers as I placed the disc in the player back in the day.
Today, it’s the “deluxe edition” under headphones and we’ll see how the mixing of Paul and four different young producers turns out eight years later.
My initial reaction back in the day was this.
Sound wise, it’s a wonderful album, as each of the four producers bring fresh ideas on each songs musical landscape.
But back in October of 2013, I felt the album lacked a wholeness that some of his previous has had. It felt in total as if it were a playlist of songs put in a certain order and called an album.
It is also the first of his studio albums to show that his voice had begun to age. It was clear in concert, and on some of his live albums, but this is the first time on a new release. It was a bit of a shock at the time…. My Paul was getting old…. And the changes in his voice continue to this day. The man is almost 80 years old, and so many years of various smokes, drink and nights on the road eventually pay a price.
But now I accept any offering this man gives me, and maybe I will reevaluate the release differently today. In fact on a few of the songs, the producer would not let him do a vocal retake as the initial attempt showed his vulnerability and realness.
“Save Us” (McCartney/Epworth)
“On this occasion with Save Us, Paul (Epworth) just had that idea so I just ran along with it. We got a backing cooking, I put some bass on it and I put a guitar on it and so it sounded like what you hear on the record. And then the thing was ‘Well, what song is this?’ So I started mumbling and blocking out words ‘What did I just sing?’ You just pull words and I just scribbled some stuff down. So that one was very organic and wrote itself over a few hours.”- Paul
- A very nice album opener. The track, like all of the album is lush and even though Paul’s vocals are slightly buried in the mix. A couple of listens to this track really brought it home. Rating – 8
“Alligator” Mark Ronson produced and recorded with his band.
‘I had a few weeks when I settled in a regular system. What I would do is, I’d take my little girl to school, my youngest daughter and then I’d come back, and I’d have some time before I would have to go and pick her up again. So, I’d just come home get myself a cup of green tea and sit with my guitar or piano. On “Alligator” I wanted to feel Zen.
I was messing around and I started getting the idea: “I need someone to come home to. I need a place I can rest”. I knew that in about 3 or 4-hours’ time after I started I’d be ringing Nancy, who was in New York, and I knew I’d wake her up. It was about 12 o’clock, it was 7 o’clock for her. So this gave me a motivation to write something and ring her up and say: ‘Morning, baby. You wanna hear a song?’-Paul
- This is another that took a new listen for me to appreciate it. The middle eight falsetto, once a bit odd, now sounds perfect. Lots of layers of swirling background sounds and vocals and guitar riffs. Rating – 7.5
“On My Way To Work” Giles Martin produced and recorded with the band. “In the case of this new song I was flicking through an art catalogue and I saw a work by Damien Hirst, the young British artist. I saw one of his pictures and I looked for the title. It said ‘On My Way To Work’. And that intrigued me, I thought that’s a great title. It’s very mundane, but it says a lot. And everyone is going to be able to identify cause everyone is often on their way to work. So I thought what does that mean to me?
The jobs I had before the Beatles would involve getting up early in the morning and going on a bus and the kind of buses we had were green double-deckers. So I started there on that journey and then just other memories came flooding in.
One of the interesting things was in the chorus of that song, where I move away from the narrative, to just sort of something more to do with what I was thinking at that age was ‘How am I ever going to meet the ideal partner?’ Because there’s billions of people out there. ‘How am I ever going to run into the right one?’ And it was quite a disturbing thought to me at the time. And so I used that in the song to move away from the storyline. ‘But all the time I thought of you, How far away the future seemed. How can I have so many dreams without one of them coming true?’ So all of these things come into your mind. You’ve got a guitar, you start putting some chords to it. Write down the lyrics as you go. And then you’ve got a song. I was playing this to a friend of mine, I know Johnny Depp quite well, I was playing this to him and another friend – Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters as these guys were listening to some early playbacks.
And Johnny is listening to this and says ‘I’m glad you got Chichester in there’. And I was very glad myself because it’s a nice rhythm and it’s kind of a funny town, there’s a little bit of humor in it. ‘She came from Chichester to study history, she had removed her clothes for the likes of me.’
- One of the now more frequent songs Paul wrote that dealt with youth, the past, growing up and looking back. A very common thing for creatives as they age. A lovely performance by all concerned. Rating – 8
“Now this song, Queenie Eye, is based on a game we used to play when I was kids. You got to remember that’s a long time ago and basically in kind of a poor area I was from. What you did you entertain yourself was go out in the street and play street games. There wasn’t that much traffic, so you were pretty safe. And one of the games was called Queenie Eye.” -Paul
- A very interesting music video for this one. I think that this might have been a hit for Paul way back in the day. The middle break, reminded me of the middle break in “With A Little Luck,” very nice, but sadly takes away any radio friendliness. Still, lots of interesting things going on in the mix. Rating – 8
“Early Days” When I was working with Ethan Johns on this album, I brought him a couple of acoustic songs. He said: ‘Just come down to the studio. Just go down there and play it.’ So I did that, we did a take and he says: ‘That’s great!’ So I came back up and I said: ‘A bit of the vocal is a bit wobbly, I’m sure I can sing that a bit better.’ He said: ‘But it’s you! It’s vulnerable, and it sounds really true to life.’ And we left it, and people have said to me: ‘Oh, I like that track.’
- Another song Paul did a music video for. The voice at times is vulnerable, yes, and Ethan Johns was right. Our precious Paul with his tender slightly fragile old man voice now proudly told of how HE was the one would say what, when and how things happened during his Beatles days. A closer re-listen made this special. Rating – 9
“New” It was a late night, and I was at home in London and I got my dad’s old piano that used to be at our house in Liverpool. It’s a great sound and obviously the whole vibe, because it was my dad’s. I played it as a kid, and he played it, it’s a nice instrument to play. So I just came up with that.
And pretty much just wrote what you hear in the song, except for the third verses and the middle 8 and things, but it kind of wrote itself. When you do that, that’s going to be you. That one didn’t feel like it needed much. And I brought it to Mark [Ronson] and we kind of got on with it. Tried a lot of stuff. I had a very specific piano and harpsichord mix trying to get like a hybrid sound. So we followed that. He is very receptive to ideas. And I don’t think it hurts that he was a Beatles fan.
- Clearly the hit single…. If Paul was 30 years old. Any song with perfect hand-claps gets me. And the handclaps drive the rhythm. The band is amazing, with Paul, vocally taking this song and elevating it to excellent. Rating – 8.5
“Appreciate” There is a little one called Appreciate which is sort of a weird little track I mean, that was a great one to make, because we kind of layered it and built it up and at the end of it I got to play this slide guitar solo. The amp of the guitar was so hot that it kind of played itself, so I have particular memories of that.
I had a mess around on an auto-tuner. I knew all my mates would go… People I knew were going: ‘Oh, no. You can’t do that.’ Because of that, I’d never even gotten near one. But I went to see Kanye and he’s using one live, and I thought: ‘You know what, that’d be fun.’ On this Appreciate track I did some stuff, but in the end we didn’t use it. We had all these tape loop sounds that he’d brought in, and guitar loop sounds. And we started chopping it all together into this big collage, and I remember saying to him at one point, ‘We should make this into a song’, and he just gave me this look, like, ‘You’re so boring!’ Then we found this chorus that he’d done previously, over something completely different, and we spliced that together and it all just worked. That’s one of my favorite tracks on the album, I listen to it in a lot of different ways.
- Right away, one of my favorites…. Fantastic production, performance (love the use of the dirty guitar), lyrics, vocals and a killer music video that Paul shares with Newman, the giant robot. Rating – 9
“Everybody Out There” I have been doing a lot of touring. I’ve been down to South America, been in North America, Europe. When you go to places, it’s a football crowd. They got their own chants. You’re hearing like 60,000 people doing this, it’s a great noise. So you come to write, then you start to think wait a minute I’ve got a little thing in here that they can sing and what if I then said ‘Everybody out there!’. Then I am connecting immediately to the audience. And then what else are you going to say.
So it was like ‘You wanna make a difference? Stand in a line, if you haven’t got any time I’ll give you some of mine.’ There’s a little message on that one.
- Paul tried to write his “We Will Rock You” with this one. I think in his head he saw himself singing this, the crowd fully engaged and answering his call with a response like crazed sports fans. I saw the tour that accompanied this album and he tried and the crowd did nothing. The song itself is a nice little minor rocker, and harmless and maybe if he wrote this for “Venus and Mars” it would have happened. Rating – 7
“Hosanna” Next up was the producer Ethan Johns. “He’d done Kings of Leon records, so I knew there was an authenticity and a realness about what he did,” McCartney says. “I brought him ‘Hosanna’” – a tender, tentative acoustic ballad – “and I said, ‘I wrote this song.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you go in and sing it?’ So I did that and said, ‘Should I do it again? Should we fix it up?’ He said, ‘No, that’s beautiful the way you did it. I think that’s enough.’ I thought, ‘OK, this is the way he works: He’s gonna be very raw, he’s gonna want it to spill out, don’t think about it too much, just say it.’”
- A bit of a religious feel, like the title suggests, with tons of noises and bits swirling around, backwards guitars and the like….
It just doesn’t move me much. Rating – 7
“I Can Bet” “My concern about working with Paul on “New” was that he might be jaded, that everything I ever suggested he must have done hundreds of times before. But he treats everything like it’s the first time. He’s not scared of putting a guitar through a Leslie speaker just because The Beatles did. After all, everyone else does it. There’s one on ‘New’ – I Can Bet – if you made a record without using the tricks The Beatles used, it would be complete silence. But he never looks back, and he always wants to try new things” -Giles Martin
- My favorite song on the album. Paul has written a brilliant little pop classic that got buried on this album. Amazing production, and another that would have been a major hit in the 70’s. I love this song. Rating – 9
“Looking At Her”
- Thick, and modern sounding. A love song that features a vocal that’s equal parts sung/spoken. Rating – 7.5
“Road” guess with that one we were aiming for something that was a little more esoteric and musically complex than the others I’d worked on. It’s like a journey. That actually started out with me on drums and him on Moog and it sounded like something by The Fall or Can.- Paul Epworth
- “Road” is indeed a song that makes one think of miles passing on a journey on the road. A few odd twists and turns in the melody feel like twists and turns on the trip. The vulnerable vocals I now embrace…. The journey now heads into the light…. Rating -7.5
“Scared” (hidden track) “My song Scared is about being scared to say “I Love You” to someone.”
I think particularly for guys, it’s not easy to say with conviction, so I was playing with that idea.”- Paul
- A bit of a throwaway by hiding it after “Road”. On other versions of the album, this track is hidden on other songs. It is from the old school McCartney piano ballad. The sonic landscape adds depth to the whole track. A nice little track, but it leaves me feeling a bit worn and slightly empty. It makes me feel, like the car on “Road” has pulled off to the side of the side, its driver paused. Maybe not the way I would have sequenced the tracks, but who am I to change his vision? Rating – 7
Overall the album to me is good, very very good in spots, a bit less in spots, but a sold effort. The four producers still gave it a compilation feel at the end, but is this the worst thing?
What we know now in hindsight is that he would not work with these four men after this. The album was given decent reviews, but the era of the mega sales albums were over, and maybe this is why Paul went with more new hot producers on his next album in 2018. Paul still wanted to have another “Band On The Run” to maybe cap off his career. NEW, while not being this is still a good album, and a turn by Paul around the final pole, heading into his stretch run.
Overall the album grades out as 7.92/10, a fair summary of my feelings and a tad higher than I thought it would be.
Next, songs released asa bonus tracks from NEW and the rest of 2013……