This soundtrack to Paul McCartney's commercially disastrous film, Give My Regards to Broad Street, isn't his most embarrassing solo album — in fact, it has moments of real spirit. But the LP's conceptual effect is as dismaying as anything McCartney has come up with in his ever-lengthening post-Fab career. There are only three new songs here; the rest of the record is filled out with pointless Beatles remakes and even more meaningless reprises of some of McCartney's own solo fluff. This is a shame, because the new tunes are pretty good.
"No More Lonely Nights" is one of the most solid pop tracks McCartney has recorded in years. With its delicate melody and instant-hook chorus, it's a song worthy of the man's unquestioned talents. And "No Values" and "Not Such a Bad Boy" are cleverly constructed rockers given crucial oomph by guitarists Dave Edmunds and Chris Spedding, and by good old Ringo Starr on drums. Fine. From there on, though, it's downhill all the way.
The remakes of the Beatles-era "Yesterday," "Here, There and Everywhere," "For No One," "Eleanor Rigby" and "Good Day Sunshine" are simply redundant: McCartney adds nothing to the original versions. "The Long and Winding Road," burdened with a cocktail-lounge arrangement, seems aimed at aging Beatles fans whose next stop will be soppy evenings with a bottle of Scotch and a stack of Sinatra records. His decision to redo them here smacks of both hubris and professional desperation, as if he were telling us, "Look what I'm really capable of." His revamped solo oldies seem similarly unnecessary.
Paul McCartney remains a puzzle — a gifted musician, singer and songwriter who piddles his gifts away. His bloodless, homebody persona and oppressive whimsicality are at fundamental odds with rock's animating impulses, and his determined disinclination to exert himself in any meaningful musical direction seems by now almost to border on arrogance. McCartney's contempt for his own talent marks one of the saddest declines in contemporary pop.