A couple of days ago I bought two albums. That’s right, two! Not one. Two!!! The last of the big spenders, I must be made of money, hole in my pocket and all the other cliches you can think of. But anyway, the two albums were released on the same day by two very different people: an old geezer and a purty gal. So this left me with a dilemma: which one to listen to first?! Due to the lack of disk drive on my macbook, I was forced to listen to the girl’s one first, namely In Your Hands by Eliza Doolittle.
In Your Hands
I pre-ordered this album online, so I haven’t actually had the CD come yet, but I got a free mp3 copy of the album so I downloaded and listened to that first. I really liked Eliza’s first album because, quite simply, it was innocent. Good, clean fun. Catchy pop songs with childhood nostalgia being the main theme. But on to the new album, and the style has changed completely. No more is the good, clean fun. Instead we have an album full of generic love songs. Yes, the previous album had love songs on, but they didn’t feel like typical love songs. These new songs all sound like a song that any female artist could’ve released these days. For example, Make Up Sex wouldn’t sound out of place in Jessie J’s setlist. I feel a bit cheated, because before the launch of the album she released a single called Big When I Was Little, which was very similar to the first album’s material – a pop song about nostalgia. But this was a false preview.
So let’s look at some of the songs. The opening track, Waste of Time, made me question whether the title might become ironic. The song is okay, features the piano quite heavily which, being a pianist I like. However the piano melody is the same through most of the song, which doesn’t help in captivating me. The second track, Back Packing, further highlights the change in style, but this song is pretty damn good. At the risk of sounding like a middle-aged radio presenter, this song has ‘attitude’. I imagine the chorus has a complex dance routine involving lots of thrusting of the hips and waving of the arms. The song Hush is marked as [explicit]. It has a few swear words in it but that’s about as explicit as it gets. The swears aren’t put in for no reason – they are needed for rhymes and work with the song’s angry theme – so I can forgive them. The third song is Let It Rain, a big ballad type song that probably has an impressive video, but again there’s quite a lot of songs like this out there already.
No Man Can is an okay song. I quite like the percussion/drums on this one. There is a line around 0:24 where she sings “I don’t get no returns” and sings ‘returns’ a bit funny and in the next line “I have to start again” her voice croaks a bit on ‘again’. I really love little imperfections or odd pronunciations like these and I often keep skipping back to them repeatedly to listen to them again. And this is another good example of them, especially the croaky ‘again’. To be honest, I don’t really care about the rest of the song, I like those two lines. The song is good though. The next song, Walking on Water is pretty generic, although it did remind me of why I liked Eliza in the first place, as her voice is quite cute, like the way she pronounces ‘little’.
Now for the title track, In Your Hands. Expected to be the best song on the album. Well it must be if you name the album after it. Thing is, it’s okay. It’s another big ballad type song, with backing vocals drenched in reverb and echoey drums. That seems to be thing that’s changed a lot on this album, all the songs have orchestrations and layered backing vocals and big, bold music, whereas the first album was lighter and everything seemed simpler and more fun. The thing about this song, is it’s another one where the lyrics don’t really speak to me, I’ve pretty much ignored the lyrics to most of this song, as most of it is “I’m in love with you” and I don’t really want to listen to another love song. Then we go to Checkmate. Another love song yes, but this time it’s a bit more up beat and sounds more like what I expected from the album, with a Chess based love song. Again the pronunciation of the word ‘little’ sounds unabashedly cute and brings the focus back to her voice.
But let’s not be too negative here. Eliza’s voice is still as good as ever, and the songs do still follow her style somewhat. There are a few songs on the album that stand out. The aforementioned Big When I Was Little is probably the highlight of the album. Another good song is Euston Road, which feels more like the old stuff, and there’s a bit where she says the word “Traffic” in the background of the chorus that makes me laugh for the sheer cheesiness of it. It reminds me of the Engie Benjy theme tune. It’s kind of a shame that the two best songs were left till last. Maybe they should’ve gone at the start to make the transition from fun catchy pop songs to generic love ballads less drastic.
Right, now onto the other album. Six years since his last studio album, his 16th studio album… Paul McCartney’s New.
When I got it, the first thing I did was to listen to track 6, the title track, New. I’d heard this many times before because he released it as a single beforehand and I really like it, so I listened to it to get me in the mood for the album. And it worked. The song is a great upbeat track that’s very catchy and great fun to whistle and sing along with McCartney’s trademark ‘oohing’. The harpsichord does make it a little hard on the ears if i’m honest, but that’s my only minor quarrel with an otherwise great song.
Listening to the first track, Save Us, I thought Wings had reformed, as it sounded like one of theirs songs. A fast-paced rocking song that keeps you tapping along to it the whole way through. It’s catchy and really sets a precedent for what to expect on the album.
The album quickly changes styles. The second song, Alligator, opens with a clip of Paul saying “okay” in a voice that I have imitated many times over the years. It then goes into a song not dissimilar to the first. Again more of a Wings feel than Beatles, but these comparisons are to be expected when listening to someone with such a long and varied career.
On My Way To Work is a fairly simple little song. Quite good. When I heard Paul perform it on a guitar in an interview it made me appreciate it a whole lot more. It’s the sort of song I love. Simple and catchy. One line “She came from Chichister to study history” reminded me of a Pulp song. I’d heard a lot of people saying Queenie Eye was one of their favourites from the album, and I can now see (or hear) why. It’s based on a phrase McCartney used to chant in a game he used to play as a child. The song got me tapping my toes and I really do like the chorus, which is catchy and great to sing along to. The bridge suddenly goes really slow, an effect he’s used on a few songs, which kind of gets a bit boring after a few times of it happening and makes the songs feel a bit samey.
Early Days is a nice sentimental song about McCartney’s memories of time with John Lennon before The Beatles. A nice song, although – and here’s another comparison – not as good as his earlier song about John, Here Today. Appreciate is a ‘cool’ song that would fit perfectly in a Bond film. Everybody Out There was written as a song for the audience to join in, and I guess people will because it is quite infectious, but there’s not much for the audience to do, except for going “woah-oh-oh-oh” a few times. I Can Bet is a good, toe-tapping song, which highlights the fact that although most of the songs on this album are love songs, the lyrics aren’t cliche and soppy. The song has a rather long outro, at 40 minutes… sorry, seconds! Jesus, imagine that, a 40 minute long outro. Road is probably a good song. I say that because at the time of listening I wasn’t really in the right mood for that sort of song.
Because I bought the Deluxe edition, the album has three bonus tracks, although only two are listed on the album. Which was quite nice to have a hidden track. You don’t get them much these days. My favourite of these bonus tracks was Get Me Out Of Here, which is an acoustic song which sounds like it was just recorded with the band playing, not many effects. Nice and clean like.
The only quarrel I have with this album is the lack of stand-out tracks. Some of his songs like Live And Let Die, Jet, Dance Tonight… they’re amazing songs that make you go ‘wow’ and dance and sing and go a bit crazy. But apart from New and Save Us, nothing on the album would make me really excited. But then I guess that’s what Best Of albums are for.
This is why you don’t buy MP3s: for the album artwork. The artists put time into designing them and they should be appreciated. These two covers are a good example to highlight what’s wrong with album covers today and how to do it properly. In Your Hands is your typical mug shot of a scantily dressed pretty girl posing seductively, whereas New is a photograph of a logo designed specially for the album built in an Ian Flavin inspired sculpture. So, which of the two had more thought put into them? New. Which of the two cost more to make? New. And which of the two is the most clever and unique? New. But which one will people prefer? In Your Hands. That is because people are far less interested in art and are happy enough to gawp at a sexy girl.
I have yet to look at In Your Hands properly as the CD hasn’t arrived, but i’m guessing the inside imagery is going to be pretty much the same.
The inside of New is rather lovely. When you open the trifold case you’re greeted with a photo of the album cover in alternative colours, which I mistakingly thought was the same as the cover and thought “What a waste of space”. There is a two page greeting from Paul talking about the recording of each song. The letter opens with “Dear you…” which made me smile. I like to think Paul actually wrote that. The accompanying booklet is full of lyrics – nicely laid out with alternating orientations – photos and personnel notes. The CD itself is the most impressive feature for me, as the album title is printed on the actual CD, not stuck on, which made me say “Ooh, nice.”
So, i’ve done two reviews. Now the final question is: which did I prefer?
Easy. I prefer New. Cos let’s face it, it’s Paul McCartney, and he’s consistently good. After so many years he’s still putting out brilliant material like this. And i’ve been whistling the song New more than i’ve been shouting ‘traffic’ randomly.
I would really like these two artists to do a duet though. Or maybe Eliza to cover one of McCarntey’s songs. Maybe that’s what i’ll wish for this Christmas.
I got the In Your Hands CD today and as expected the album design was nowhere near the standard of McCartney’s. There’s a few photographs of her, although not really the kind I was expecting. They are ‘arty’ photos of her reading and looking through a window. Although there is a balance, as there’s one of her taking her top off (from the back) and one with the dress strap off her shoulder. The last one is quite low resolution, which is a bit odd seeming they’ve obviously been taken by professionals who say things like “yah, I’m into photography. I capture the essence of someone and put it in a 10 x 8 glossy.”
And the typography… jesus. As you can see in the photo above, she’s gone for the same technique as McCartney in making the lyrics one continuous prose. But the type is so small you can barely read it. Either she’s got good eyesight or she doesn’t want anyone to know her lyrics. And the header typeface is just as illegible. On the last page of the booklet she’s written a whole paragraph in it and it hurt so much to try and read it. From what i’ve written it sounds like i’m suggesting she made the album herself. I’m not stupid, I know she didn’t. She’s not Ringo. Have you seen his?! My god they’re bad. Look them up now if you haven’t. Anyway, I know she probably had very little input in the design and I think she should’ve spent a bit more and got someone better than the guy who did this. One saving grace though, the CD itself is rather neat. It’s pink – y’know, cos she’s a girl – and her name and the album name are embossed on, so you can only see it in certain light, which is rather snazzy.
And now, i’ve just said the word ‘snazzy’, which is a stupid word but at least it’s not ‘quirky’. So i’ll end this extra little bit right now.
In Your Hands: (3 / 5) NEW: (4 / 5)
Overall rating: (4 / 5)