The Fireman, Electric Arguments (ATO, 2008)

The Fireman is a side project for Paul McCartney and the veteran producer Youth. They recorded two instrumental albums in the nineties which fell through the cracks completely, but their third album Electric Arguments contains songs. Electric Arguments does maintain the same experimental flavor of its predecessors, though, so people expecting a typical McCartney album will be in for a bit of a surprise.

The whole album has a resonant ambience, heavy on the reverb and containing a bit more distortion than the arrangements would normally call for. On tracks like the opening bluesy rocker "Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight," the countryish "Light from Your Lighthouse," and the electronic "Lovers in a Dream," McCartney does some different things with his voice. As a result, the normally unmistakable tenor behind so many classic Beatles songs is not always easy to recognize. Youth contents himself with creating the soundscapes to back up McCartney's voice and instrumentation. Most of the music on Electric Arguments has a dreamy, trance-like quality, which does work nicely enough on songs like "Sun Is Shining" and "Lifelong Passion."

On one hand, it's always interesting to hear a performer of McCartney's stature doing something different for the fun of it, especially after he seemed to be trying too hard to get back on the radio with his last album Memory Almost Full. On the other hand, Electric Arguments is more interesting than it is good. McCartney included "Sing the Changes" and "Highway" on the set list for his shows at Citifield over the summer, but neither song is particularly memorable. And that more or less sums Electric Arguments up. There are some promising ideas in here, but none of the songs really stick with you once you put the album down.

Overall grade: B-

reviewed by Scott

"Sing the Changes"

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