Egypt Station

Paul McCartney

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Egypt Station Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Teaming with Greg Kurstin -- a producer best-known for helming Adele's Grammy-winning 25, but also a musician in his own right, collaborating with Inara George in the savvy retro duo the Bird and the Bee -- is a signal from Paul McCartney that he intends Egypt Station, his 18th solo album, to be a thoroughly modern affair. It is, but not in the way that the glitzy 2013 album New, with its fair share of Mark Ronson productions, was. Kurstin doesn't specialize in gaudiness, he coaxes his collaborators to act like a bright, colorful version of their best selves, which is what he achieves with McCartney here. Apart from "Fuh You" -- a vulgar throwaway novelty recorded with Ryan Tedder -- Egypt Station is a handsome and clever collection where McCartney hits many familiar marks but the difference is, he gets there in a different fashion than before. Perhaps the mini-suites, pleas for peace, rocking boogie, and romantic ballads are the very definition of McCartney's wheelhouse, but he takes some subtle chances here, both in the arrangement and, especially, the lyrics. All the slower songs are peppered with haunting images of darkness creeping at the edges, while McCartney revives the carnality that marked "Press" -- not just on the straightforward "Fuh You" but on "Come on to Me," a considerably better song than the Tedder exercise. Such twists are welcome but what's satisfying about Egypt Station is what's always satisfying about a McCartney record: the hooks and imagination that are so rampant seem effortless. The thing that Kurstin brings to the table is a refinement, letting McCartney's ideas shine incandescently while also revealing that a record this clever isn't tossed off, it's crafted in every respect.

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