Thursday, March 20, 2008

No. 418: Band on the Run

Band: Paul McCartney & Wings
Album: Band on the Run
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Paul McCartney's legacy is nearly unmatched and he didn't stop being a great songwriter once the Beatles dissolved. His first two post-Beatles works were decent, but "Band on the Run" is his best work after leaving the Fab Four.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: McCartney's legacy is, uh, not based on his work with Wings.
Best song: "Jet" has some amazing harmonies. "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" is pretty great.
Worst song: "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" is pretty bad.
Is it awesome?: Not really.

I used to work with a woman who claimed that her mother is a huge Wings fan, but can take or leave the Beatles. This, of course, is patently ridiculous. People get annoyed when I make fun of Paul McCartney's smiley, happy songwriting, but the truth is that I love McCartney's songwriting. He's one of the best five songwriters in the history of rock and roll; to deny the quality of his work would be foolish. The only problem is that he was in a band with John Lennon, who was better.

Lennon and McCartney's post-Beatles work each showed that the band was the sum of its parts. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Wings or solo Lennon song that comes close to even the worst Beatles songs.

So, when you look at songs like "Jet" or "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" and compare them to, say, "For No One" or "Blackbird" or any of the other scores of great McCartney-penned songs, you'll inevitably going to be disappointed. "Band on the Run" is a wonderful song, but it isn't even in the same universe as "The Night Before," "Yesterday" or "Drive My Car."

Does that mean that "Band on the Run" is terrible? Of course not. "Jet" has some great harmonies, "Let Me Roll It" is pretty cool and the title track is wildly fun. But, does it compare to the Beatles? Not favorably.


kellydwyer said...

In a vacuum, without the Beatle-history, this album would be a pretty sweet listen. Then again, it wouldn't be on this list, so I guess it deserves the "in comparison to the Beatles" context in this format.

Love the album, though. "1985" (I'm not spelling that out) is just ridiculously awesome. I couldn't tell you what a single song on this album is about, but I love it.

R.J. said...

You know, I'm probably not giving the record its due. I had the commute from hell (missed the bus, trains were delayed, had to walk in the rain sans umbrella, etc.) Wednesday evening and listened to it three times in a row. Save for one song, I can't say I didn't enjoy the album and the record cheered me up a little.

I think Macca's solo stuff make up the worst of his intentions. They're nearly always silly and ridiculously upbeat -- "Band on the Run" is an album of such songs -- and lack the tenderness that his best work with the Beatles ("For No One," "Eleanor Rigby," "I Will," etc.) had. If you squint, you can see it in "Maybe I'm Amazed," but that's about it.

You're absolutely right, KD, though. Without the comparative analysis, this album is wildly fun.