Flashback: Paul McCartney’s Weird 1980 Experiment

mccartney_ii_coverart_specialFor a moment in 1980, Paul McCartney lost himself in a strange, cool way. His third solo album McCartney II was released with some of the most polarizing material I’ve heard from the former-Beatle. Even the album art catches McCartney in a moment of confusion, almost like a mugshot of his arrest for McCartney-identity-theft.

Full of studio trickery and playfulness, McCartney II is neither typical or focused. The opening track, “Coming Up”, may not be too far off center for McCartney despite some vocal alterations and new technical sounds, but by the second track I was left wondering who I’m listening to.

“Temporary Secretary” boasts an off-beat drum set to wavy synthesizers and heavy acoustic strumming. The lyrics are just as strange, hitting a climax near the middle, building up with this whispered nonsense:

“She can be a belly dancer, I don’t need a true romancer / She can be a diplomat, but I don’t need a girl like that / She can be a neurosurgeon if she’s doin’ nothing urgent / What I need’s a temporary, temporary secretary!”

It truly sounds more like an MGMT song than something from Paul McCartney.

Plus, you have these hiccuping, swaying electronic instrumentals spliced in with “Front Parlour” and “Frozen Jap.” Odd to hear these isolated grooves on a singer-songwriter’s solo album. Yet, their unique placement was interesting enough to keep me engaged and curious about this step-child McCartney LP.

Next came “Darkroom” a cultured beat with electronic horns, maracas and flutes accompanied by McCartney’s yelps of “a place! [we] can go!,” as you follow him to his Dark Room. The track is funky and spaced out, nothing too deep but just inspired enough to be great. The song has some interesting sounds that I feel can be directly compared to Toro y Moi in modern music.

Overall, the album is unbalanced and both intriguing yet flawed. The 80’s provided strange material from plenty of artists who made it big prior; this is just McCartney’s brand of 80’s soul searching. Both worth checking out and scratching your head over.

-JC

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