Rhythm & Views

The Fireman

Electric Arguments is the sound of musicians completely liberated, and shouldn't all albums sound like that? Maybe not, but if there's any man who should be artistically untethered, it's Paul McCartney.

He's revived this pseudonym/project, which he devised with partner-in-crime Youth (Killing Joke and Orb member, The Verve producer) back in 1993 as an instrumental electronic act. For the third album, McCartney finally gives The Fireman a voice, but that's not the hook here.

The two spent a collective (though not consecutive) 13 days on writing, recording and polishing the entire album, one day for each song. And the approach works for the duo in several ways. Each track bears an aesthetic independent of the others; no two sound alike, and instead of dreading what pretentious left turn lurks ahead, you're eagerly anticipating what the two musicians dreamt up next. The breezy folk-pop of "Two Magpies" sounds nothing like its tracklist bookends: the visceral blues-rock stomper "Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight" and the airy, Coldplay-like anthem "Sing the Changes." "Lifelong Passion," the genesis of the album and the most Zen-like song here, follows the resounding "Dance 'Til We're High," the strings and chimes recalling Arcade Fire, and McCartney evoking Bono circa 1985.

For such a cavalier-seeming experiment--McCartney's name isn't even on the outer CD package--the results are always palatable and frequently lilting. Electric is such an unexpected wonder that you just may forget it comes from a Beatle.

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