In 1964, the Beatles made their American debut after the massive success of the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Forty-eight years to the week after the British Invasion, the two surviving members of one of the most famous bands in history, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, have released new records. Although former members of the Beatles, McCartney and Starr’s albums strive to distance them from their boy-band past and further their solo careers.
Kisses on the Bottom
Paul McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom would have been a hit if it had made its debut in the 1950s. But in 2012, the endless string of indistinguishable, crooning love songs is sure to flop in the face of college-age audiences.
All of McCartney’s album has an undeniably dated feel, from the first song “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter,” (decade adjusted title: “Imma Facebook You”) to dedicating a whole track to a man with a now nonexistent job in “My Very Good Friend the Milkman.” Many of the tracks on the album are McCartney’s takes on “standards” like “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” but these are songs that will still be more prevalent in torn and weathered piano songbooks than in iTunes accounts.
McCartney approaches the aged subjects of his songs with predictable rhyming lyrics and boringly simplistic instrumental accompaniment. The only salvageable song on the album is “My Valentine,” whose relevance to the upcoming holiday rescues it. Even the album art – McCartney peeking out behind a giant bouquet of flowers – is ridiculous to such an extent that one begins to wonder if McCartney is actually making fun of his audience, through thick layers of subtle British irony, for his ability to put his name on something awful and sell it to the Beatles-loving masses.
While much more rock-and-roll than McCartney’s album, Ringo 2012 – Starr’s 17th independent record – is still not to be described as Beatles-reminiscent. Starr’s post-Beatles music stands on its own, and especially so in this album full of cheerful rock songs with simple lyrics and lots of electric guitar.
For Beatles fans looking for some hint of the band in Starr’s album, “In Liverpool” will disappoint the most: In a recent interview with NPR, Starr said the song was about his pre-Beatles boyhood mates; nevertheless, it is one of the best songs on the album. In the same interview, Starr told NPR about the inspiration for another great song from his new album, called “Wonderful.” With lyrics like “the worst it ever was was wonderful,” Starr sings about his wife of over 30 years, Barbara Bach, whom he first met on the set of Caveman (she spent the duration of the movie in a fur bikini; of course it was wonderful).
While a few of the songs glance back at the good times, much of Starr’s album is about optimism towards the future, which is embodied in both the title and modern album art, of sunglasses-clad Starr posing with a peace sign.
McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom seriously disappoints, but Starr’s Ringo 2012 is a solid addition to the drummer’s solo career. The release of these two albums only confirms the validity of the record store scene in “(500) Days of Summer”: “I love Ringo Starr.”
“Nobody loves Ringo Starr.”
“That’s what I love about him.”
McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom: 1 star out of 5
Starr’s Ringo 2012: 3 stars out of 5