Paul McCartney isn’t done innovating just yet.
Sure, Macca is embracing his past a little more than usual as he rolls out his new “Egypt Station” (Capitol), which had a few recording sessions at Abbey Road. He even revisited Liverpool to reminisce with late-night TV host James Corden.
But there is no doubt he is still looking ahead. You can hear it in the first single “I Don’t Know,” a piano ballad that harkens back to The Beatles’ heyday but still sounds current, as producer Greg Kurstin applies some of the sonic dynamics he has used with Adele.
The framework of “Egypt Station” allows McCartney to try all sorts of styles, as he imagines each song as a different stop on a train ride. There are some surprisingly risqué numbers, including the rocking “Come on to Me,” which is his first Top 10 single since 1997 on any Billboard airplay chart, and the even more straightforward “Fuh You,” which sounds like a mix of a Coldplay anthem and Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
“Back in Brazil” is a suite of wild world beat styles, with bits of bossa nova, blooping synths, random screams and funky organ riffs. “Despite Repeated Warnings” is a seven-minute epic tale of a captain piloting his ship into dangerous territory, though with lines like “Those who shout the loudest may not always be the smartest, but they have their proudest moments right before they fall” it’s clear Macca is also referring to someone specific. It builds to a dramatic close, with a choir singing, “It’s the will of the people.” McCartney is more direct on the future singalong “People Want Peace,” as well as the charmingly simple “Happy With You.”
“Egypt Station” is easily McCartney’s most pop-friendly collection in two decades, since 1997’s “Flaming Pie,” but he accomplishes it with some of the experimental edge he has cultivated in recent years. It’s a combination that would work for anyone, but is especially thrilling coming from McCartney.