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The Fireman: Electric Arguments

Album: Electric Arguments
Label: ATO Records

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Paul McCartney and producer Youth have been collaborating on experimental side projects as The Fireman off and on since 1993. That may explain why what once seemed like a weird marriage between a classic-era godfather and the go-to guy for tasteful studio sheen sounds so lived-in on Electric Arguments, a casually compelling collection that finds McCartney cutting loose against a dense backdrop. It's weird mainly for how unexpectedly traditional most of the tracks sound. The layers of instruments surrounding "Light From Your Lighthouse," for instance, don't disguise the traditional gospel song at its heart.

That mostly works in the album's favor. With last year's Memory Almost Full, McCartney proved he still had the knack for creating studied pop songs. This plays like a B-side to that album, adding polish to casually conceived melodies until they start to take on a studio life of their own. Youth's production—blankets of U2 ambience with the occasional chiming guitar to match—provides a nice complement to McCartney's voice, though it all starts to blend together after the mid-point. The album sounds filled with first instincts; both participants sound as if they were trying not to overthink their music, fearing if they tried too hard, it might not have worked as well. But that casualness can be frustrating as well as pleasing. The promise of tracks like the intensely bluesy "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight" and the soaring pop of "Sing The Changes" suggests that with just a little more care, they might have created something truly eye-opening instead of the "hey, that's not bad" collection they ended up with.