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Album review: The Fireman's 'Electric Arguments'

November 24, 2008 |  6:01 pm

The_firemen_240 The third outing from Paul McCartney's duo project with Killing Joke-Orb producer Youth moves this project, which had mostly been instrumental electronic/ambient exercise, ahead by developing full-fledged songs built around McCartney's ever magical voice. In fact, in several of the 13 songs, that voice is employed almost as just another sonic texture, the meaning of words being less critical to the overall effect than the sheer sound of them. It has the feeling of yet another attempt to alter the latter-day public perception of McCartney as the square Beatle.

It's a worthwhile effort. Being song-based, there's less substantive distance between this and McCartney's most recent solo outing, "Memory Almost Full," although he works from a broader musical palette. "Electric Arguments" spans the home-studio spontaneity of his first solo album, "McCartney," in the screaming heavy blues-rocker "Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight" to more elaborately produced tracks such as "Sun Is Shining," a song that wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Band on the Run."

Then there's "Is This Love?" a dreamy U2-ish soundscape full of penny whistle, celesta, pinging upper-register bass runs and echoing multi-tracked vocals. That segues into an even loopier workout, "Lovers in a Dream," which opens with bending cries of bowed acoustic bass that sound as if McCartney and Youth invited a few humpback whales into the studio to sing and dance along with them.

McCartney's bottomless well of melody ensures that none of it gets too far afield, even as the songs turn more amorphous as the album unfolds. The pair wraps things up (not counting the obligatory hidden track -- replete with a backward-masked whisper at the end!) with "Don't Stop Running," a haunting minimalist rocker in which McCartney repeats the title phrase as if a mantra to himself not to get caught up in the past.

Excellent argument.

--Randy Lewis

The Fireman
"Electric Arguments"
* * * (3 stars)