The concept behind Egypt Station is readily digestible: each song is a different train station stop on the trip that constitutes the full album. With that in mind, you could easily imagine each song fixating on one particular sound or subject before the train pulls out of the station and Macca waves goodbye. But Sir Paul has never been content to stick to one genre (or even one song) within the constraints of a single album track, and the majority of these tracks are a mishmash of whatever genres and instruments strike the former Beatle’s fancy.
Most veterans would be content to leave a song like the genteel-yet-randy "Come On to Me" as a stomping rocker, but Paul – like a master chef who can't help but sprinkle in a few random ingredients that weren't on the recipe when no one is looking – throws in a blues harmonica, electric sitar and an overly dramatic horn section that punches your ears with "Live and Let Die" urgency for added kick. (Speaking of bedroom-minded Macca, he keeps insisting "Fuh You" -- with the lyric "I just want it / Fuh you" -- is a G-rated affair even though it sounds much more like he's singing "I just wanna fuh you." This truly is the classic rock take on Britney's "If U Seek Amy" the world needs.) Similarly, while another songwriter might create the world music-flavored adult contemporary vibe of "Back In Brazil" and call it a day, McCartney tosses in some 8-bit bleeps and bloops (s/o his pioneering McCartney II album) as well as lilting Philip Glass-esque woodwinds.
But the true standouts on Egypt Station are reserved for the last few stops. As with McCartney's restless '70s output, the best items here are the omnibus tracks. "Despite Repeated Warnings" is a majestic, melodramatic mini-epic that builds from a gentle lament to a rebellious rallying cry punctuated by soulful horns and urgent strings. It's not hard to read the lyrics – a maritime tale about a ship whose future is endangered by a loud-mouthed, short-sighted captain who refuses to heed all warning signs because he's "got his own agenda" – as a Trump dig. And it's an achievement of sorts that a president could be embarrassing enough to get the most diplomatic of all the Beatles to write digs like "Those who shout the loudest / Will not always be the smartest" and "Grab the keys and lock him up."
The other is the album-closing medley "Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link." "Hunt You Down" is a deliciously swaggery '70s rocker with hella cowbell, clanging boogie woogie piano, layered harmonies and a noise that sounds like a laser gun being blasted off in a Super Nintendo game. That segues into "Naked," a cheekily existential sketch of a pop tune that finds Macca in a rare sour mood ("Life's a bastard but I have no other"). While "Naked" has the last lyrical word on the album, the instrumental "C-Link" closes out Egypt Station with some stately blues-rock noodling from a player confident enough not to bother with mind-bending acrobatics; to compare it to one of McCartney's favorite guitarists, it's closer to Jimi Hendrix on the hot-n-sweaty "Red House" than the frantic Hendrix of "Manic Depression."
Much like the concept behind Egypt Station, that song's name, "C-Link," is a conscious callback to Macca's Wings LPs, which included instrumental "link" tracks ("Cuff Link" on London Town and "Bip Bop Link" on Wild Life) as a means of stitching together disparate songs. But here, the link doesn't quite live up to its name – it's the final song on the album, not linking anything per se. The fact that the album gently peters out with a hazy blues tune sounds confusing on paper, but when you listen to "C-Link" lazily whisk you away from your musical Macca odyssey, it somehow works.
That, truly, is emblematic of McCartney's gift. His enchanting affability and left-field stylistic diversions keep you engrossed, and on Egypt Station, that mixture of ramshackle charm and studio workmanship has given us his best album in years.