Looking Back at Paul McCartney's Wonderful, Bizarre McCartney II
Next week's Paul McCartney show at Minute Maid Park is sure to be one for the books, as the former Beatle and lauded solo artist comes to Houston for the first time in years.
His set lists are largely built on his Fab work, making it a historic chance to hear one-half of one of the greatest songwriting duos of all time play some of the most cherished musical works of the past century.
But out of everything The Cute One has touched musically the past 50 or so years, nothing seems to compare to his third proper solo record, 1980's McCartney II. For people who couldn't get down with the earnestness of Wings, or who were waking to New Wave and post-punk around this time, this album was a bright and shining anomaly.
It also makes a great companion piece to other major releases of the time, including the Talking Heads' Remain in Light, David Bowie's Lodger, and Roxy Music's Manifesto.
If you ever though that McCartney was a saccharine grinner and not as innovative or weird as his former bandmates, you should take a look at McCartney II.
"I was fed up with formally playing records. I just wanted to hire a machine," McCartney said in some of the promo material for the album's reissue.
For one, if you were to play some of this album, unlabeled, for your average uninformed indie-rock listener today, they would probably name a dozen current groups -- including Battles, Animal Collective and the Flaming Lips -- that could have recorded tracks like "Front Parlour," "Darkroom" or the awkwardly named "Frozen Jap."
On the way to releasing McCartney II and with Wings in deathly limbo, McCartney tinkered with recording equipment and ended up recording 20 or so songs by himself on his Scottish farm. You would think the pastoral surroundings would create something rootsy, but not so with McCartney. He ended up making an electronic funk record, which today would be held up as expert latpop dance-pop. "Temporary Secretary" would make it onto an Apple commercials in a flash.
Last year's reissues of 1970's McCartney and McCartney II astounded the hipster rock press, who also agreed that some of this material wouldn't be too far removed from the output of the current indie class of 2012.
Check out the video MII, lead single, "Comin' Up," which features Paul as everyone, even Ron Mael from Sparks.