The phone goes. It’s Paul McCartney asking you to produce a song on his new album. You’re deeply flattered. Produce Macca! The guy’s brought more joy to people with his music than anyone alive. Ah, but there’s the rub. Who are you to tell him what to do? How can you break the news the strange quivering high voice he adopts in “Early Days” resembles a toothless Neil Young? Or tell him the chirpy keyboard motif in “Alligator” is maddening? At least that’s how New comes across to me. Produced by George Martin’s son Giles, Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns and Paul Epworth, it has decent moments – the squealing 1970s riffage of “Save Us”, the Beatlesy chug of “Queenie Eye”, the way the title track channels Brian Wilson – but they’re overshadowed by indulgences.
“Looking at Her” labours its theme of obsession by mismatching bland romantic pop with unhinged rock. “Early Days” is a dreary acoustic roots music about the birth of The Beatles, McCartney sounding oddly costive amid the nostalgia (“They can’t take it from me if they tried”). A hidden track at the end conveys a poignant sense of frustration. “The beautiful birds won’t fly out of their cage,” McCartney sings, “even though I’m trying to set them free.”