Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Paul Works It Out

Macca gets his groove back at the once-unimaginable age of sixty four


Memory Almost Full
Hear Music

What's most remarkable about Paul McCartney's inaugural album for Starbucks' Hear Music imprint is its cross-promotional hoo-ha. To win it space on his demographic's overloaded cerebral hard drives, Memory Almost Full will play all day June 5th in every Starbucks in the world, in ten of which caffeinated fans will send birthday greetings to the ex-Beatle, who turns sixty-five on June 18th. Nevertheless, by McCartney's recent standards, the album justifies the pop eccentricity he pursues so imperturbably.

"Dance Tonight" is so simplistic it could make you shudder, but repeated plays soon implant its strummed hook, and the rest of the album establishes that the party it sets up is a setup -- a bit of Eden before a fall that comes immediately with the peppy but regretful "Ever Present Past," about all the time a sixty-four-year-old has already wasted on work instead of love. "Gratitude" is an astonishingly unrecriminating romantic fare-thee-well from a guy who is going through a bitter divorce. "Vintage Clothes" and "Feet in the Clouds" incarnate his nostalgia and whimsy with some wit and considerable musical invention. And the final tracks make clear that boyish Paulie conceived this record as the old man he is. "End of the End" lays out funeral instructions that include jokes, songs, "stories of old" and assurances of an afterlife not all his contemporaries believe will transpire. And "Nod Your Head" appears to advise aging lovers on their beds of pain. Not simplistic at all.

Rolling Stone, June 14, 2007