Paul McCartney – Pipes of Peace (Album Review)

pipes

Rating: 4/10

The most confusing thing about Pipes of Peace is that its predecessor, the similarly-named Tug of War, was actually good. Really good. Yes, it did sound like a product of its time, but the melodies were inspired and the arrangements interesting. McCartney seemed to put more effort than usual even in the lyrics, resulting in the touching eulogy of Here Today and the anti-war protests of the title track. Going back one more album, McCartney II had a knack for experimentation like few other of his works. The results were not always successful, but at least you could appreciate the effort.

I don’t know what happened, but in contrast Pipes of Peace turned out to be a complete disaster. Its feet are firmly set into the Hellish territory of 80s adult contemporary – the ballads are as saccharine as they come, the production unbearably glossy and artificial. I mean, McCartney’s always been known for his ‘silly love songs’, but So Bad reaches new heights – it has all the elements that people have criticized him for over the years minus the excellent musical ideas that made those complaints null for us fans. And what’s up with those out-of-place hair metal riffs in The Man, one of the two collaborations with Michael Jackson? It the song supposed to rock? All I hear is another piece of totally forgettable pop. One could say Tug of Peace is more experimental, but what the heck is the purpose of it? A mere mash-up between two songs with no personality of itself, this is basically the definition of filler. It becomes even more pitiful when you realize that McCartney probably thought of it as an edgy, staying-current type of move.

When it’s not embarrassing, the album is simply forgettable. I only know The Other Me, Hey Hey, Sweetest Little Show and Average Person are on here because I happen to have the track-list in front of me – otherwise they just go in one ear and out the other. The only songs that seem to bring faint echoes of the old McCartney to mind are the first two: the title track has that sequel feeling coming after Tug of War, but its buildup is undoubtedly the most interesting moment musically, and I even like the arrangement with a more organic sound and trademark Linda harmonies. And Say Say Say is more like a guilty pleasure type of song, but one can’t deny the infectiousness of hearing Paul and Michael trade lines.

Ultimately, Pipes of Peace sounds like the type of album McCartney was bound to make sooner or later, just like Bowie eventually did a dance album. Both artists were always highly influenced by the mainstream scenes and their careers seemed to vary in accordance to it – so when pop music went all the way down in the mid-80s, so did McCartney. And not even George Martin at the production helm could save him.

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18 replies

  1. Brilliant video. Haven’t seen that before.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You’re so right. Pipes of Peace is one of those many albums that he recorded during the period that could all be compressed into one, very good release. Instead, he almost seems to have squandered his talent in so many terrible ones. It’s too bad that Backyard and Memory came so late in the game to be relevant, because they were the great albums Paul should’ve recorded 20 years before. Anyway, what’s done… I also agree with that incredible, and sadly short, instrumental segment with Stanley Clarke, which pointed to so many great possibilities of collaboration between the two and it was reduced to just a few minutes of music. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Backyard is a great record. It feels like old-age, mature, nearly confessional McCartney so I would say it fits its placing in the 2000s. I don’t think he could’ve written something like At the Mercy any earlier. He wasn’t trying to stay hip by that time and it worked.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s right. I’d forgotten that at times the whole album is very solemn. But what I meant is that he pushed himself in ways that he hadn’t pretty much during the whole 80s and 90s. Like you, I loved that Tug of War album because it was the exception. But these two recent albums have great songs, it’s a shame no one is paying too much attention for this new work now.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Terrific review. I also wrote something on the album, asking Macca fans to weigh in…on the fan pages, it’s always positive, but boy is this over-produced to within an inch of its life, but then it has “Tug Of Peace” with an early rap and Paul’s experimental pop of creativity…the 80’s were a tough decade for him –

    https://johnrieber.com/2016/09/17/pipes-of-peace-paul-mccartneys-rap-ringos-drumming-misunderstood-classic-or-tug-leftovers/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Older rock artists either seem to feel – or are encouraged by their labels – that they have to stay relevant. So then you have guys like Santana playing with that guy from Nickelback. Or, in the 70’s, some doing disco. Or recently McCartney working with Kanye West. And I forget the name of the song but Paul played some new keyboard-based thing on TV which I suspect he thought was pretty hot. It just wasn’t. Hit or miss these days I’m afraid. Let us glory in the good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like I haven’t missed much by not owning this one – but I’ll admit to enjoying Say Say Say, relatively guilt-free!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s been a very long time since I have listened to any of McCartney’s new stuff. Band on the Run being the last one. Unlike Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, McCartney quit growing as an artist and continued to put out quite boring music.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We’ve had this discussion before, but I’ve never been a fan of McCartney’s stuff. This one sounds like the album I’d use as an example of why I have no time to listen to him… especially when there’s so much great music out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just caught the Pipes of Peace video for the first time last week and read the mixed reviews of the album soon after! I’m still planning to give the album a listen; I don’t know much about Paul’s work aside from Driving Rain, which I heard while in high school.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Looks like I’m in a minority. I love this album, but then I love all of Sir Paul’s works. None of them bore me at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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