Having grown up an armchair Fab Four-ologist by reading just about every book on The Beatles, one of the myths that I’ve seen prevail throughout the years was that Lennon was the one into avant garde and Paul McCartney was the one who wrote the silly love songs. This was furthest from the truth. In reality, while Lennon was holed up in his Mansion with Cynthia and Julia, it was Macca who was the first one soaking in all the creative energies of the psychedelic era of the sixties. McCartney was friends with many artists in the London Underground, including experimental musician John Cage and poet Allan Ginsberg. Paul was the one who got Lennon to record the now infamous “Carnival of Light” song that may finally be released.
Paul has never strayed from these innovative tendencies throughout his solo career and even creating a solo project The Fireman in with former Killing Joke bassist and producer Youth. In 1993 The Fireman dropped their first release Strawberry Ocean Ships Forest and followed another release under the commercial radar with 1998’s Rushes. Paul must have been impressed with Youth’s production work with Alex Patterson’s The Orb because The Fireman was conceived as Macca’s foray into ambient dance music sounds. The Fireman wasn’t the first time Paul took a dive into the dance floor, as “Ou est le Soleil,” one of my favorite tracks from Flowers in the Dirt, must have inspired Macca to delve deeper into DJ culture.
Throughout the nineties Paul’s experimentation with The Fireman remained veiled in mystery until 2008 when Paul and Youth finally admitted that they were the duo trailblazing with their dynamic moniker. Even with me being a die hard Macca fan, I have to admit I never cared for The Fireman’s first two releases. What was missing from Strawberry and Rushes was the soulful inflection from “Ou est le Soleil.” I enjoyed Twin Freaks more, Paul’s partnership with DJ and producer Freelance Hellraiser. Macca hired Hellraiser to spin his decks for Paul’s 2004 World Tour. McCartney was so impressed with Hellraiser’s mixing abilities that he collaborated with Freelance on a double vinyl only release remixed album of Paul’s solo song’s mashed up by Hellraiser. I’m still waiting for Twin Freaks record to be released on CD.
But instead this holiday season, Macca fans get an even better gift from Sir Paul a new Fireman album. Electric Arguments is the first to have vocals from McCartney himself. This was the main problem I had with the first two Rushes releases. The samples were cool for the first few minutes, but I missed Paul’s trademark vocals. Electric Arguments is more than just another experimental venture into dance music, Macca and Youth have evolved from that aspect of their earlier Strawberry and Rushes releases. This time, the dynamic duo have truly collaborated with Youth laying down some grooves, Macca improvising some lyrics like he did on Flaming Pie‘s “Really Love You” (with Ringo Star and Jeff Lynne). Macca then added more rhythms to their initial recording and gave each track a more song feel. Think of Electric Arguments as thinking man’s groove music. Not tracks for the dance floor, a more transcendental moving experience with lyrical wonder brought to you by Paul McCartney.
“Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight” opens Arguments with a bluesy number that announces how much The Fireman have evolved from their Strawberry days into a resurrected more Electric feel. “Two Magpies” follows with a very acoustic beauty, one of the best solo songs Paul McCartney has ever written and recorded that would fit perfectly on 1970’s McCartney or even 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.
“Sing the Changes” echoes the aura we feel in the word today. I first heard this modern day anthem on L.A. radio station 100.3 The Sound while driving to day job in Pasadena. Unbeknownst to McCartney, it sounds like Paul’s lyrics are foretelling the emotions we all felt on November 4th when the world changed for the better.
You may recognize the mellotron that The Beatles used on “Strawberry Fields Forever” recycled with such a vibrant flare on “Traveling Light” which also features one of the tenderest vocals Macca has even record on any album, such a beautiful and moving song as he croons “I’ll follow the bluebird to wherever she lies.”
“Highway” sounds like an updated ramped up version of “Taxman” with McCartney rocking another number that most certainly could have found a home on last year’s Memory Almost Full. I love the electric choir-like vocals towards the end of the song that shine along with Macca shredding his guitar like he famously riffed on Band on the Run. “Light from Your Lighthouse” is a Western pub song turned Gospel acoustic number with Paul taking on an old time preacher that would fit in soundtrack adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series.
“The Sun is Shining” starts off as another acoustic number with birds chirping in the back ground as Paul sings a modern day “Good Day Sunshine.” “Dance `Til We’re High” is not a club anthem, it’s more a song for two new lovers coming together for the first time beyond sight and sound. A theme that Macca revisits on the very romantically tinged “Is this Love?” You will hear Paul sing for the new paramour in his life. It’s nice to hear that after all that loss that McCartney’s been through that he still believe in the magic of love.
“Lovers in a dream” has a “Ou est le Soleil” feel with a little Orb like ambient atmosphere as Macca adds a bluesy riff that lifts this dream into being just another Strawberry/Rushes sampled groove. I love the way each song flows into another. Paul layers some piano keys and guitar flavor to Youth’s chill out vibes on “Universal Here, Everlasting Now.” You can feel the beats with Macca’s improvisational vocals building to a rhythmic climax as Paul’s tender piano keys personify certain calmness after the intense electrified culmination.
Arguments closes with the epic “Don’t Stop Running.” Paul sings the very poetic “Silent lover/ angel smiling/ don’t stop running.” (You can hear the addition of the tabla, the Indian instrument the The Beatles made famous using during their peak Revolver and Sgt. Pepper years.) There’s a bonus cut 8:00 minutes into “Don’t Stop Running” which sounds like a Vangelis/Blade Runner-inspired tune with Macca whispering some backmasting (backward) lyrics in the distance.
I am impressed by the way Fireman has evolved from its early incarnation to this post modern collaboration between Macca and Youth. It was as if these two exceptional musicians finally realized the potential they had in the studio and harnessed their gifted energies into creating something like Electric Arguments that was worthy outside the dance floor and more into our collective consciousness. Electric Arguments will go down as one of the most eclectic and exhilarating albums in Macca’s whole extraordinary canon.
Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full
The Orb – U.F.Orb
Paul McCartney – McCartney II