Chaos and Creation In The Backyard Label: Capitol
You know it’s a big deal when the new Paul McCartney album sparks not only a big tour, but a documentary about making the record as well. Such is the case with Macca’s new masterpiece, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. And yes, you can chalk this one up as a definite masterpiece. I hemmed and hawed about giving this thing the full 5 star glory, but it’s been so damn long since Paul’s had a really super album out, and hell, this one fits that bill and then some.
You could say that it’s in part due to Nigel Godrich’s excellent production, and you’d be right, but really all the kudos must go to McCartney himself. For once he isn’t trying to please everybody in his large audience who wants a rocker, a silly love song, a plea for peace, and so on. Instead, Paul has created a very low-key, slower tempo work here that really pays off. It’s not that the guy can’t rock anymore, as the first single and album track “Fine Line” demonstrate he very well can, but McCartney has seemingly been dodging the aged rocker bullet for some time now, and well, it’s made a bunch of his more recent studio works just not very good. On Chaos he deploys his most intimate sounding songs in ages and does so in a quieter style that really shows that the man is still quite capable of writing beautiful songs.
Back to Nigel Godrich. Apparently George Martin himself suggested Godrich to Paul, and I must say that the pairing couldn’t have been better. This album sounds pristine from top to bottom, with a crystal clear performance that sounds like it’s being played out right in your very own living room. A lot of these numbers are piano based, so Paul’s usual bass gymnastics are subdued this time around, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less tasteful. In fact, this is the kind of stuff that would have made the grade on an album as classic as the Beatles’ Revolver.
Examples of this perfect intimate sound are to be found in tracks like the acoustic and haunting “Jenny Wren”, and the gorgeous “Riding to Vanity Fair”, which is my personal favorite on the disc. There’s also a quaint elegance to the excellent “English Tea”, and a warmth enveloping “Friends To Go”, the likes of which we haven’t heard from Paul in years. You could almost consider this his McCartney III – a new birth, a new/old “sound” and a reconnection with his listeners that reaches places that he may not have had with them for some time.
The bottom line is that Paul McCartney is still one of the greatest songwriters the world has ever had, and when he puts his mind to it, he can prove it seemingly effortlessly. But it’s been a few years since the last studio outing, and the time it has taken to make this album certainly helped the creation process. Even if Paul McCartney were some “new” 63-year-old artist dumping this out as his debut album, it would be an important release for the year. But since he has been around for so long and has amassed such an overall terrific body of work, you can add this one to his pile of classics as well. Whatever the mix of aforementioned ingredients was that brought about such a landmark release, one thing is sure: it’s nice to hear McCartney making the magic once again.