The Lowdown: On his 18th or 25th solo record (depending on how you feel about Wings), Paul McCartney continues his late-career explorations of love, sex, death, and the spaces in between in his first work for longtime label home Capitol Records since 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.
The Good: McCartney’s always brought a light touch when approaching life’s biggest questions, and he uses it well on Egypt Station’s best moments (which are also, generally speaking, its quietest). From admitting that things don’t get clearer with age on the piano pub ballad “I Don’t Know” to extolling the virtues of a boring home life on “Happy with You”, McCartney continues to provide solid blueprints for how to age gracefully, pain and all. That’s not to say that he’s not still enamored with the possibilities and pitfalls of love; the one-two punch of “Hand in Hand” and “Dominoes” makes excellent use of every creak in McCartney’s occasionally fragile tenor to deliver the strongest endorsement of coupling that you’re likely to hear on a major-label release this year. If you only have the chance to check out one song here, make it the closer (“Hunt You Down / Naked / C-Link”), which provides a succinct summation of the album’s energies that’s as fun as it is useful.
The Bad: Much of Egypt Station is devoted to giving advice, but the bromides offered (forget the haters, seek peace, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today) probably won’t inspire any life-changing realizations. Also: if you’re not into senior citizen sexiness, you can safely avoid “Come On to Me” and “Fuh You”; the former thuds along with all the charm of an earnest cover of a Franz Ferdinand track that was meant to be sung ironically while the latter amps up its dirty, old man vibes with a misheard-on-purpose chorus and bloodless Top 40 production from OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder that will try the patience of old-school McCartney fans and skeeve out their grandkids listening to it on Kiss FM.
The Verdict: Egypt Station is a minor entry in a major catalog, a Paul McCartney record for people who like Paul McCartney records. Though he may never produce an essential late-career record like contemporaries Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, or even Neil Young, Paul McCartney continues to make music that takes far more chances than it has to. That fact alone should earn Egypt Station at least one spin.
Essential Tracks: “I Don’t Know”, “Dominoes”, and “Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link”