Monday, May 22, 2006

The British Are...Doing Something...

>> Featured Artist: Paul McCartney

The Toaster had planned an homage to Paul for his birthday coming up in June (and we might still do something special for the knighted one), but the news last week that he and his second wife Heather Mills would be separating made us pop in some solo Paul a few weeks early (and it apparently made Paul issue a number of personal statements on his website).

Now we know that most hipsters are dismissive of Macca, at least ever since Wings went their separate ways (but mostly since the Beatles broke up). At the very least we were all massively disturbed by "Freedom." Still, Paul has had moments of brilliance throughout his solo career.

And once in a while he'll write a great lyric. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, McCartney's 2005 release that was you might have caught on any of the several dozen VH-1 airings of Paul's exclusive behind-the-album vignette, leaves listeners with more than just a speckle of great Paul. It's probably his most solid album in a decade, and it's definitely the most somber of his solo career (with lines like "I was open to friendship / But you didn't seem to have any to spare / While you were riding to vanity fair" from "Riding to Vanity Fair").

The whole album only has two or three clunkers and is balanced by a remarkable performance from Paul and production from Nigel Godrich. It is without a doubt worth a listen.

>> Album Lookout: The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living

The Streets - Released: April 25, 2006 Vice

Always intrigued by the Streets, Mister Toaster decided he was going to round up a number of songs from his 2006 release and ponder actually purchasing an album (something he'd not even considered in the past). The reviews are pretty good: Village Voice's Christgau loved it; Pitchfork gave it a cool 7.0; AllMusic gave it a wishy-washy three stars.

Mister Toaster was not convinced. At least not to buy the album, that is. We at the Toaster find Mike Skinner's approach extremely endearing and often quite entertaining. But the hooks are lesser than in previous Streets efforts.

That's not to say it's not a good album. In fact, there are a number of catchy songs that will likely assure it success. A highlight is "Hotel Expressionism," on which Skinner romanticizes the oft-explored rock'n'roller issue of trashing hotel rooms (Editor's note: Skinner thoroughly separates himself from rock'n'roll, which is - as he puts it - "fucking old").

Among the clever and deftly-unrhyming lyrics is: "Throwing the TV out the window, mate, is nothing clear of weak cliche. It's vandalism. And expressionism is keenly disassociated."

>> Reverting to: 1970

Back to the McCartney egg. Paul just makes it seem so easy. And his confidence and inspiration can't be witnessed more clearly than on his first solo album, McCartney (you know, the one that came out immediately after Paul publicly disbanded the Beatles). "Every Night" has always been a favorite of the Toaster's, perhaps just because of the acoustic guitar that McCartney lays down. That and the freewheeling "woos" that make up the song's chorus. Even though we know he can write the "Yesterday"s and "Eleanor Rigby"s, it's the happy-go-lucky Paul that we love and that feels most natural.

On "Every Night," Paul is in his element.

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