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The Fireman - Electric Arguments
(Atco Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 2, 2009
The Fireman

Review by Tony Bonyata

Given the fact that most Beatle fans are well aware when anything new related to one of The Fab Four is released, not to mention that tabloid readers probably know more than they should in regards to Paul McCartney's own personal woes related to his recent divorce with Heather Mills, it's rather surprising that so few know of McCartney's ongoing side project known as The Fireman.

McCartney began this collaboration back in 1993 with Youth (aka Martin Glover), an influential record producer and founding member of the UK industrial punk band Killing Joke. Their first release, Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest, was an experimental collage of dance-inspired music derived from material culled from the sessions of McCartney's '93 Off The Ground album, which also found the pair pulling samples in from his 1979 Back To The Egg record. The duo returned to the studio again in '98 to release the decidedly more ambient, electronic follow-up Rushes.

While McCartney and Youth still retain the adventurous, experimental spirit of their two previous releases, Electric Argument is certainly their most accessible effort to date - with McCartney adding his signature vocals to many of the tracks that are actually closer to his more traditional pop song structures than the avant-garde leanings of, say, John Cage or Karlheinz Stockhausen. They immediately illuminate their case on the opening blues rocker "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight," where McCartney belts out a low gravelly vocal not too far removed from his manic delivery in The Beatles' "Helter Skelter." McCartney continues to tap into his more hard-rocking roots on the catchy "Highway," before turning in the fine pop numbers "Sun Is Shining" and "Sing The Changes," along with the decidedly rootsier and upbeat Appalachian folk sonnet "Light From Your Lighthouse."

Even with McCartney and Youth's more approachable music on this effort, it still might prove too experimental for the mainstream. While certainly not one of McCartney's masterworks, it's, nonetheless, a strong effort that's not only slightly reminiscent of the rawer material from his 1970 self-titled solo debut, but also a refreshing reminder that this 66 year-old music legend isn't about to rest on his laurels as he continues, once again, to push the boundaries of where pop music is able to go.

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Watch The Fireman - "Sing The Changes" video

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