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Review: The Fireman: Electric Arguments

Paul McCartney's most daring album in decades

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


The Fireman: Electric Arguments

The Fireman: Electric Arguments

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Paul McCartney's third collaboration with famed musician/producer Youth -- the former bassist for punk legends Killing Joke, who more recently made a name for himself as a master producer of psychedelic trance music -- went unnoticed when it was released two months ago. But then a funny thing happened: people started to listen to it, and it started to garner recognition as Paul's best solo album since 1981's Tug Of War. Does the angry leadoff song, "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight," a poison-pen letter to his ex-wife, model/activist Heather Mills, have anything to do with it?

About this CD

  • Release date: November 25, 2008
  • Label: ATO Records
  • Catalog number: 21640
  • Produced by Paul McCartney, Youth
  • Musicians: Paul McCartney: vocals, guitar, bass; Youth: keyboards, programming
  • Additional programming: Tim Bran, David Nock
  • Engineered by Clive Goddard
  • Mastered by Steve Rooke


  • This is the most vital Paul's sounded in a long, long time, not because he's paying attention to trends but because he's dropped all self-consciousness.
  • Don't be afraid: inside the dense production, the melodies, vocals and songcraft are all vintage Paul.
  • He's actually angry! (Sometimes.) More important, he's taking chances again.


  • The sprawling nature of the tracks and the wide scope of this duo's vision makes this a Paul album you have to listen to more than once to understand. Fortunately, that's easy to do.

My review

Normally, just the idea of Electric Arguments' opening track, "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight," would be enough to kickstart endless "Paul Is Alive" headlines. He's rarely gotten upset over anything but carnivores over the past decades of his solo career, and even then, his anger seemed more like a brief pose, a stylistic bone thrown to his fans. But this beast, this slow, loud stomper -- which sounds more like a Soundgarden rarity than anything in Paul's entire career -- crackles with the real deal. "Oh, did you want to be famous?" he wails. "Did you want to betray me?"

Okay, so the Cute One got taken by a model, and now he's angry. Is that it? Can we go now? Actually, that's not all, and this is where it gets interesting: there's little anger or noise on the rest of this, Paul's third collaboration with famed producer Youth. However, there's also no trace of the pandering entertainer who's almost always lurked in the background behind even the best of McCartney's solo career. For the first time, perhaps ever, he doesn't seem aware that we're listening. A gentle shuffle like "Two Magpies" seems at first like another "bird" song for his set list, but closer examination reveals a weirdly distorted, fragile-sounding Paulie wailing something about facing down fear and being "content to cry." This is one of the world's great remaining songwriters being enigmatic, not just clever. Even more familiar, mid-tempo stuff like "Dance 'Til We're High" and "Sing The Changes" have a sheen of mysticism straight from Youth alumni U2. And Paul, no dummy, knows how to comply. He soars.

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