There is a soundtrack in our house these days. Either we're listening to the CD player, or we're watching the DVD documentary, or we're singing it in two-part harmony. Bud and I are both in love with Paul McCartney's new album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.
Because he is more skilled in this area than I, Bud has pretty much memorized the lyrics to the entire album. He knows the tracks in order and, in fact, often calls them by their track numbers. His current favorite is 9. To the rest of us it is the track called Riding to Vanity Fair, and is uncharacteristically (for McCartney, and for Bud) dark and bitter. It is a song about being betrayed by a friend and, though in interviews McCartney says it's not about anyone in particular, it appears to be directed toward his former long-time PR man, Geoff Baker. The conflict between Baker and Paul's new wife, Heather Mills McCartney, has long been reported in the press and speculation that the negative press Heather has gotten since her engagement to Paul was spoon-fed by Baker has been rampant. McCartney sings,
"The definition of friendship apparently ought to be showing support for the one that you love. I was open to friendship, but you didn't seem to have any to spare while you were riding to Vanity Fair."
Unsurprisingly, one of the interviews in which Heather was called out to defend herself against rumors of fights, pre-nuptial agreements, and conflict with McCartney's daughters, was in the magazine Vanity Fair. You don't need to do a lot of searching to read between the lines. I have to say, the song is a lot brighter when sung in Bud's lilting little voice, but I imagine his teachers wonder what's going on at home when he walks around singing lyrics like, "I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do - I’ll try to take my mind off you. And now that you don’t need my help, I’ve used the time to think about myself."
Another of Bud's favorite tracks is the bright and upbeat English Tea. This song sounds so-much-like-the-Beatles-except-not-the-Beatles that the first few times I heard it I could swear it was The Rutles. It is instantly familiar, like a warm, comfortable, broken-in-just-the-way-you-like-it sweater. It also, McCartney is quick to point out, features the word "peradventure" (meaning perchance, or perhaps) and he wonders if it may just catch on so that people all over the world will start saying "peradventure I'll have a cup of coffee..."
Bud and I are both especially fond of the acoustic Jenny Wren, which is classic McCartney in the Yesterday/Blackbird/Here Today/Calico Skies tradition. It's a quiet song about finding your voice when life's situations can make you feel powerless. And we do a MEAN duet on this one.
My favorite moment on the album is the one-two punch near the end - This Never Happened Before, followed by Anyway. They are both love songs, which is often McCartney at his best. And, like the rest of the album, these tracks are not overproduced. They feel organic and homegrown. It's as though you're sitting around the living room and they slowly waft up out of the fireplace and fill the room with warm air. And both tracks have those McCartney chord progressions that somehow create a physiological response, gently lifting up your heart and slowly rolling it over in a way that is startling and pleasant all at the same time.
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard continues an evolution for McCartney that began with Flaming Pie and continued through Driving Rain. These are the songs that trace his life from Linda's diagnosis and battle with breast cancer, through his loss and grief, and towards a hopeful (if less naively positive) future. This is a more introspective and tentative Paul McCartney, but in many ways it is also a more human, more accessible Paul McCartney. And for a six-year-old boy with autism and a mom who loves him, an album filled with hope and possibility in the face of challenge and despair provides a soundtrack that feels just about right.