We'll see if Paul's latest efforts on Howard Stern and The View will increase the chart life of "Electric Arguments." The album debuted at #67 (the number you get when you round off 66.6, but that's just a coincidence) and immediately started to descend. Still, that is the best showing for a Fireman release and deservedly so. "Electric Arguments" received all kinds of praise from critics. The word "inspired" was tossed around a lot. In fact, the work is so accessible, many people have been asking Paul why it was not released as a Paul McCartney album.
411Mania said, "Slightly short of being perfect, Electric Arguments is one of Paul McCartney’s best albums ever; an addictive, colorful collage of sounds featuring stellar instrumental, lyrical and vocal performances; essential."
Uncut gave it four stars and enthusiastically proclaimed, "Paul McCartney soars out of his comfort zone."
The BBC said, "Electric Arguments is nothing less than a rather fine McCartney solo album."
Even Rolling Stone claimed it was "ex-Beatle's headiest music in years."
So, is "Electric Arguments" Paul's best album in years?
The short answer is "No." The medium answer is "Not quite." The long answer is "Not quite, but it is a damn good album."
Paul and Martin Glover (aka Youth) set out to write 13 songs over 13 days spread out over a year. Taking that into consideration, "Electric Arguments" is amazing. You won't find anything as exquisitely crafted as "House of Wax." Nothing here has the emotional depth of "Jenny Wren." I don't even think we have anything as musically adventurous as "Mr. Bellamy," but that's an (electric) argument for another day.
But even if it is not Paul's "best album in years," there is much to enjoy about "Electric Arguments." Paul is such an outstanding musician and singer that anything he does will find its way into the pleasure centers of the brains of most music enthusiasts, but he shoots much higher than that on this album. We get to hear the results of Paul and Youth having a great time.
It is fitting that he is the wealthiest musician of all time because Paul McCartney simply loves to play---and that's the best way to describe "Electric Arguments." Paul is playing without any inhibitions. I'm not saying that he doesn't go into some dark places. "Traveling Light" is a haunting melody, but only in the spirit of play would Paul have the courage to sing in the lowest register we have ever heard him reach. It also features a slide guitar reminiscent of the late Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. It is just one of several extremely effective tracks on the album. The opening track, "Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight" may sound a little muddy, but I think that is intentional. The production quality of the album is excellent overall. But this is not one of those albums built on tension, perfectionism and anxiety. It is obvious that Paul is having fun.
There is a great segment in the Geoff Wonfor film "In The World Tonight" when Paul takes us into his home studio and we get to watch him to play with Bill Black's bass and the Beatles mellotron. You can tell he loves every minute he spends in that studio.
The guy just loves to play. This is not like work. It can be compared to the joyful spirit that guided the Traveling Wilburys. You can feel a part of the good time as you listen.
At the same time, it can't be a Paul McCartney album without a sense of mystery surrounding the proceedings. And we have plenty of that. But just like everything else Paul has done, there is never a smoking gun, just a hint of aroma that makes you ask yourself, "Do I smell smoke?"
One source of interest is the collection of stickers that adorn the shrink wrap of the CD. One sticker in particular, says "no, no Sam, it ain't no anagram." A reader, pmc27, was wondering why the name Sam was used. The obvious answer is that it rhymes with the last syllable of "anagram," but it's not the most clever poetic gem an artist or designer has ever conceived. Pmc27 noted that the phrase "no Sam" backwards makes the word "mason." Conspiracy theorists, including Iamaphoney have hinted that the person we currently know as Paul McCartney could be a member of a secret society with connections to the Masons. Videos by youknowmyname231 and grandfatheraleister also played up the Masonic connection by highlighting the checkerboard floor and "Magical Mystery Tour" and other symbols.
Weak as it may be, somebody in Paul's camp must be quite fond of the phrase "no, no Sam, it ain't no anagram," because this is not its first appearance. A decade ago when the album "Fireman Rushes" was released, Paul did a live web chat incognito to promote it. [See Previous Post - The fireman is no mason]
In the web chat, the following exchange took place:
Q: carol@cnf .canal.edu asks, Does the sentence "The Fireman is no mason" use an anagram to say 'The Fireman is soon man' ?
A: No, no sam, it ain't no anagram.
The sentence that prompted the question was on the official website for "Fireman Rushes." The interesting thing we now know is that if you rearrange the letters of "The Fireman is no mason" you can make the sentence "I am the risen son of man." While it's true that if you have enough letters, everything is an anagram, it is rare to find one as meaningful as that. I believe it was youknowmyname231 who first discovered this anagram.
Iamaphoney quickly backdated it into his own scenario. We will never know if Iamaphoney knew about the anagram and was hoping it would remain undiscovered until he revealed it, or if he simply annexed youknowmyname231's discovery. It should be noted that youknowmyname did not complain when the phrase was added as a description of an older Iamaphoney video.
As YouKnowMyName231 pointed out in his video, some coincidences are difficult to dismiss. To recap:
1) During the Fireman web cast of October 2, 1998, Paul was asked if the phrase "The fireman is no mason" was an anagram for "The Fireman is soon man," (which is typical of the weak phrases that one gets when trying to make or solve an anagram).
2) Paul's response was "No, no sam, it ain't no anagram."
3) YouKnowMyName231 pointed out that "The fireman is no mason" is an anagram for "I am the risen son of man," (which is atypically meaningful for a random phrase).
4) Ten years later Paul releases the next Fireman album with a sticker that also uses the phrase "no, no Sam, it ain't no anagram."
5) No one in history has ever been enticed to purchase a CD by a tagline as meaningless as "no, no Sam, it ain't no anagram." So why is it there?
When questioned about it, former McCartney publicist Geoff Baker attributed it to "Designer Norman Hathaway and his lovely weirdness." Hathaway was the designer of both releases.
The new Fireman album contains at least one more mysterious element. After a year of watching Iamaphoney videos and hearing a dramatic voice reading from Aleister Crowley's "Book of the Law" and saying "Let him practice speaking backwards," Paul decides to end his new album with backwards speech. After a false fade out on the final track, "Don't Stop Running," another tune emerges and it ends with a backwards voice. When reversed, the voice clearly says, "Warmer than the sun, cooler than the air."
Some journalists have come to the rather ridiculous conclusion that this is some kind of secret message directed at his ex-wife Heather. I would hope that anyone reading this would be able to come up with a more plausible theory than that!