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Sept. 25, 2005

A tidy "Chaos"

by Grace Harter, Page Editor
In a recent interview with TIME magazine, Paul McCartney spoke to a reporter about his upcoming tour: "It'll be great not to be out there with a crap album, singing songs I don't care much about." Sadly, this startling indictment of his past work has a ring of truth; most of McCartney's albums since his break-up with the Beatles have been panned by critics and fans alike. On the bright side, his latest album "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" should make up for the past disappointments.

On the album, McCartney's vocals are so youthful and his lyrics are so fresh that he sounds no different from back when he was in his prime. Fans should be warned that this is not the rock and roll McCartney of the past. All of the songs are ballad-like numbers.

Perhaps fans should be thankful; some of McCartney's previous forays into the "rock" genre have been pretty unfortunate (remember the horror that was "Helter Skelter"). McCartney is best when he sticks to his strengths: namely sweet, simple songs and clean-cut acoustic guitar.

McCartney sings all the songs himself and plays almost every instrument on the entire album. The CD really demonstrates McCartney's amazing talent for almost any instrument. "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" is truly McCartney's album; he relies very little on cheap recording tricks or other people to write and play his music for him.

The best song on the album is "Jenny Wren," a simple melody reminiscent of "Blackbird," one of McCartney's defining songs from his Beatles period. In "Jenny Wren," McCartney uses little more than an acoustic guitar to sing the story of a poor girl. There are no complicated instrumental breaks or pounding bass to distract from the beautiful simplicity of the ballad.

Even at 63, McCartney still seems to be searching for love. In "Anyway," the last track on the album, McCartney pleads, "If you love me, won't you call me?/ I've been waiting, waiting too long." The lyrics are accompanied by a catchy piano tune.

"Too Much Rain," a sad song about disappointment and heartbreak, shows off McCartney's impressive vocals. He hits the high notes in the chorus with precision and shows he's still the same old crooner.

"Friends to Go" and "Follow Me" are two of the catchiest songs on the album. "Friends to Go" has a lively blend of acoustic guitar, bass and piano and is fun to sing along to, even though the words are pretty hollow. "Follow Me" is an inspiring song about a supportive individual in McCartney's life. "I can rely on you to guide me through any situation," he tells the unknown person. "You hold up the sign that reads 'follow me.'"

The only weak song on the album is the ballad "English Tea." The song is just a list of stereotypical English things he apparently enjoys. "Would you care to sit with me for a cup of English tea?" McCartney asks. He then observes that this event would be "very twee. Very me." It's also very cheesy. "Do you know the game croquet?" he says later. "Peradventure we may play…Hip hooray." It just sounds like a very bad version of his earlier hit "Penny Lane." Both chronicle the events of a quaint English childhood, but "Penny Lane" did it with much more success than "English Tea."

"Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" is a perfect companion to "McCartney," the ex-Beatle's first release after the break-up of his band. McCartney proves that, when all's said and done, he's still got what it takes.

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  • Billy Shears on September 25, 2005 at 11:49 PM
    I've wasted my life.
  • rj on September 30, 2005 at 6:04 PM
    helter skelter rocks hard, i dont know what youre talking about
  • Sara (View Email) on October 15, 2005 at 12:38 PM
    I enjoyed your article, Grace. But I love Paul's rocker songs like Helter Skelter as well as his mellow compositions. He has such a wide range it is unbelievable. It's great that many young people appreciate his craft & talent. I just recently bought 'McCartney' on CD (had it on vinyl when it first came out) and I am rediscovering it. Chaos & Creation is total genius, and I actually love "English Tea". Hey, he taught me a new word to add to my vocabulary: peradventure!!

  • zeyno (View Email) on November 18, 2006 at 1:28 PM
    "English Tea" lists the triteness of English stereotypes to imply comparison to genuine life. It's meant to be cheesy. That's how it makes a point.
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