Paul McCartney (1970)
With this regressive (and somehow still revolutionary) solo debut, Paul McCartney paved the way for indie rock and lo-fi music. Having recently disbanded the Beatles, a remorseful and bitter Paul decided to retreat back into the studio and focus on the joy of music-making to deal with the loss of his companions. That attitude infuses McCartney with a playful, nostalgic aura, and yet there’s a thoughtful, sad quality to these half-finished semi-acoustic ditties. The songwriting mirrors the awkward turning point Paul was facing in his life. Lots of previously important things are missing: a guitar part here, a rhythm section there, proper song structures nearly everywhere. There are also frayed edges and tension all around: flubbed notes, a touch of muddy production, accidental studio noise, channels of music cut out.
Yes, it is a flawed recording in a technical sense, but it still displays a lot of talent and willpower. Paul soldiers on, playing everything himself (in fact, this is the first album to be recorded and performed entirely by one person). The ex-Beatle showed that he still had his trademark charm and melodic sense, despite the ramshackle proceedings. In the wake of “back-to-basics” pioneers, this extreme technique was a huge innovation. McCartney’s shockingly “incomplete” and jumbled nature paved the way for countless imitators. It was the end of an era: rock albums were no longer always huge statements or creative evolutions. As John said on Plastic Ono Band‘s “God”, the dream was over, and releases would be more and more frequently used as time-markers or languorous, cyclical ramblings. This record is the archetypal example of such “settling down” works. It also established the grounded, pastoral pleasures McCartney’s solo career would have.
Key track: “Junk”
See also: Friends – the Beach Boys (1968), Ram – Paul McCartney (1971)