The Music Files: Memory Almost Full

By Jason Kettinger | Posted at 5:31 PM

I found Paul McCartney's 2007 album, Memory Almost Full lying around my house. Though I am young and conservative after a fashion — having grown tired of the insipid statism and relentless conventional wisdom that emanates from the generation which gave us the Beatles — I thought this 2007 release would be intriguing. And it was.

I would say the worst I can say about this album relates to its first track, “Dance Tonight.” If you have extremely simple lyrics or clichés, you are contractually obligated to make the song catchy at least. McCartney breaches his contract. Oh, well.

“See Your Sunshine” is my favorite track. As a single man who understands what being charmed by a woman is like, I admire the bluntness: “She makes me feel glad/I want her so bad/My heart is beating madly for her.” Paul McCartney may be sixty-seven years old, but that is no matter – it is comforting to know that men are still men at any age.

The whole disc walks a tightrope between the comfort of pop conventions and experimentation. I’d say it does that difficult job pretty well. If “See Your Sunshine” is the best track, “You Tell Me” is nearly as good. It rocks a bit on “Only Mama Knows.”

The man can still sing.

I may be just comparing him to the talentless hip-hop cyborgs on the radio today, but it is comforting. It seems like he does not want us to chain him to the Beatles, but he doesn’t want us to forget, either. Those little echoes of past work are like a comfortable sweater, and they’ll be the same comfort to those who are more familiar with the Beatles’ catalog than I am.

This guy knows something about that elusive place What Good Music Is Supposed To Sound Like, and he takes us there more than a few times with delightful mixes of strings, piano, vocals, and whatever else.

For my part, it’s always been hard for rock to earn a place at my table. I am really most happy with Lionel Richie, Mr. Edmonds, or the singer-songwriters of the 1970s. (And loads of Country.) Perhaps you could say that the capital city of that mystical place is called Earnestness, which for various reasons, rock has lacked at times.

But that makes this LP that much more impressive, breaking through my biases and reticence. It is my earnest hope that this little feature of mine, “The Music Files,” will not be the rantings of some grizzled music critic, but the honest reflections of a guy who really likes music. It seems wise to re-visit stuff that’s been out at least a few years; I often buy things I hear are good well after they hit their peak of initial popularity. In addition, some things get better as even more time passes.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you want, help out Mr. McCartney and buy this album (Starbucks Hear Music; street price, $11).