Chaos and Creation on the Backyard, despite its clunky title, is a genuine, charming singer-songwriter album.
Because McCartney's style is so recognisable, there's always a danger his songs will be submerged in it. The first single, the perky "Fine Line" has the markings of a typical McCartney track on it. The easy melody, and the eight grand piano chord chugs per bar all barrel along to a perfect 3.05 minute finish.
But this song doesn't really define the album, which takes a thoughtful, low-key direction overall, and is skilfully sparse but never thin on the ears. Even "Jenny Wren", with it's light echoes of Beatles classics ("Michelle" and the goosebumpy "Blackbird " in particular) is polished to luminous studio-gloss perfection.
Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich achieves a unified sound that doesn't rely on a heavy hand and the instrumentation is tastefully adventurous. Ever heard a Duduk? Well top dudukist Pedro Eustache plays this unusual reed instrument on "Jenny Wren". You get the feeling they used the duduk not to show off by being willfully obscure, but because a clarinet might have been too harsh on the ears for that track.
Paul McCartney plays most of the instruments, with various grand pianos forming the base accompaniment of most of the mildly-paced ballads.
So it's pure Paul McCartney, but that doesn't mean it's old hat. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is a surprise bloom with few weak tracks and many wonderful ones full of ache and tenderness. While the themes may be general, the album is about specific loves and losses. For example, its highlight, the bitterly perceptive "Riding to Vanity Fair", warns against the loneliness worldwide fame brings. Erm, thanks, will keep an eye open for THAT ever-looming threat...
Chaos and Creation on the Backyard is such a welcome surprise that you may be tempted to say: "Ok, Sir Paul, now's the time to call it a night (no pun intended). This is how we want to remember you."
But since McCartney is a perceptive, talented musician who's just released one of the most unassumingly sweet mainstream albums of the year, there's surely more magic to come.
- Jean Barker
It mints an unassuming and idiosyncratic style with which McCartney could see out his career. At last, it seems he's found an answer to the previously imponderable question: now what?- Alexis Petridis for The Guardian
McCartney has opted to revive a pared, understated strand in his oeuvre that allows him to act his age.- John Harris for The Observer
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