Paul McCartney was 76 years old when he released this album. He was 15 when he joined The Quarrymen. It is estimated that, since leaving The Beatles, he has written a total of 554 songs. He has released 26 studio albums, 6 compilation albums, 10 live albums, 7 classical albums, and 5 electronic albums. “Egypt Station” was his first album since “New”, five years earlier.
The album was produced by two different American producers. Greg Kurstin has produced albums by Beck, Lily Allen and The Foo Fighters. Ryan Tedder has produced albums by Adele, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and many others as well as being the lead singer with One Direction. In contrast with “McCartney III”, where Paul McCartney played every instrument, there are 17 different musicians playing and singing on this album.
The concept of the album was of a train which starts at Egypt Station and each song is a different station. The CD cover folds out into a seven part painting showing a train line and different vaguely Egyptian scenes which may or may not represent pictorial representations of the songs.
The first single from the album was “Who Cares” which is a rocking up-tempo song and is a typical Paul McCartney song – great singing, a good melody, a catchy chorus and inherently interesting throughout the whole song. Here is what Paul McCartney said about this song. “I was imagining young people who might hear this, and who are going through some sort of problem where they’re being picked on, being put on. These days it would be internet bullying, trolls and all that. In my school days, it would have just been bullies and people just generally picking on each other. The song says, “have you ever been fed up with being bullied?” Has this ever happened when people have called you names, have done mean things? Has this ever happened to you? Well, who cares. And then in a twist at the end of that chorus is like “Who cares? I do.” The video, starring Emma Stone, features Paul McCartney as a wise Behavioural Hypnotist Meteorologist, Dr Lorenz, dispensing advice to a confused and unhappy young girl. It’s really good. No, it’s not good, it’s really interesting. No, it’s not that either. It’s really good fun to watch.
Paul McCartney talked about how, on Beatles records, they would sing “Tit-tit-tit-tit-tit-tit” or have lyrics like “She’s a prick teaser” or a song called “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”. “It’s kind of pathetic, but actually a great thing in its pathos because it’s something that makes you laugh. So what’s wrong with that?”. On this song, he sings “Fuh You” so that it sounds like “Fuck You”. The song was co-written with Ryan Tedder and it was a deliberate attempt to write, record and release a hit song very quickly. Rather meanly, The Guardian review by the always snooty and superior Alexis Petredis includes this put down: “There is still something depressing about a Paul McCartney song that sounds as if it was assembled on a latter day pop production line. Not least because it doesn’t sound like the kind of undeniable smash that latter day pop production lines occasionally come up with, but the stuff they palm off to pad out albums.” Oh well. I like it and it sounds like a great catchy pop song to me. I guess that being born in the Fifties gives me a different perspective on enjoyment.
“I Don’t Know” is one of the best Paul McCartney songs. It sounds like a romantic ballad but in fact, it’s a song of self doubt, wondering where his life is going. He said it was written after a difficult time in his life. “We often used to say that writing a song was like talking to a psychiatrist, a therapist or something”. To be fair to Alexis Petredis, not something I’m normally inclined to do, he wrote that this song is “impossibly sumptuous and shows Paul McCartney’s extraordinary melodic facility is completely intact“. It’s right up there with the best of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles songs – “Love In Song”, “Little Willow” or “Some People Never Know”.
“Come On To me” is much more hard rocking. “It’s an imaginary song, a fantasy song about a guy seeing someone and thinking, “We should try and find a place to be alone here, and maybe exchange information and stuff, and hey you look like you flashed a smile and said to me you wanted so much more than casual conversation. So would you come on to me, or am I going to come on to you?” Once again, musically it’s really interesting. There never seems to be any Paul McCartney song which is dull. There are always a lot of different instrumental snatches or an acapella sequence or some inventive drumming, a “middle eight” or a false ending to keep my attention. The Muscle Shoals Horn Section provide a great feel to this track. What’s not to like?
On “Back In Brazil”, Paul McCartney plays 9 different instruments. The chorus of the song just features McCartney yelling the word “Ichiban”. The video, along with “Come On To Me” demonstrate that Paul McCartney’s libido is still strong. The imagination of the world’s greatest songwriter is demonstrated by the Latin feel of this song, with a complex drum pattern.
The album consists of 16 songs and lasts for nearly an hour. The range, imagination, musical excellence, love, humour, restless brilliance and non-stop entertainment that this man demonstrates is beyond description. The website “ClassicRockHistory” wrote “This is great songwriting; it’s pop perfection. If we were living in the era in which radio used to play music other than hip hop and rap, these new Paul McCartney songs would become staples of pop culture like so many of the Beatles classics did. However, times have changed and so sadly these great records can get lost.”
Here’s 90 minutes of a concert recorded 3 years ago to demonstrate the full range of his genius.