In between impersonating a door-to-door Bible salesman, an Arizona radio DJ reciting the day’s weather forecast and Elvis Presley, the knight on the other end of the phone explains his outlook on life.
“I don’t want to grow up,” Sir Paul McCartney told the Review-Journal in a 2009 interview. “It’s boring.”
Those eight words, plainspoken as they may be, have long been a guiding principle of McCartney’s one-of-a-kind career.
And you hear it all over the album he was promoting at the time, “Electric Arguments,” the third record from his Fireman project with producer Youth.
“Arguments” was a decidedly impromptu affair, as wildly impulsive as a teenager’s mood swings — sans the slammed doors and missed curfews.
“Literally, we’d have no idea in the morning what we were going to make,” McCartney explained. “Then during that day, we’d pull out a million ideas, sift through them and kind of put them in order so that, eventually, we’d have a song,”
The record that resulted is predictably all over the place — in a good way — and that’s the only thing predictable about it.
From snarling blues-rock bombast (“Nothing Too Much Out of Sight”) to lo-fi-sounding acoustic pop (“Two Magpies”) to full-on stadium rock bluster (“Sing the Changes”), this one may lack cohesion, but not kicks.
As such, it’s one of the more underrated albums in McCartney’s catalog.
Now, nearly all of his dozens of post-Beatles albums have gone gold or platinum, so “underrated” is a relative term here.
Nevertheless, because of the depth and breadth of McCartney’s discography, some of his releases have maybe gotten less attention than they deserve.
With McCartney hitting town for a pair of shows at T-Mobile Arena this weekend, let’s take a look at five of his more underappreciated records.
“Arguments” makes the cut. Here are the other four:
‘Back to the Egg’ (1979)
Did he outfit his ego with an athletic supporter?
Paul McCartney probably should have before the release of this one, what with all the critical knees to the groin he took when it hit the shelves.
Rolling Stone, for instance, famously panned “Egg,” McCartney’s last record with Wings, as “the sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory,” equating it to some of the “laziest records in the history of rock & roll.”
While this album is as uneven as an alligator’s jawline, it also packs the same bite in places: “Old Siam, Sir” is one of McCartney’s most raw-throated jams, the frenetic “Spin It On” continues to be a reliable pulse-quickener and the clumsily titled, proggy instrumental “Rockestra Theme” (It’s like something by an orchestra, but rockin’, man) remains a pleasure guilty enough to earn you some hard time.
Look, we’re not arguing that this one is some overlooked masterpiece. But it’s also not the musical goose egg that it was once dismissed as.
“I’m getting closer to your heart,” McCartney declares on hard-driving second single “Getting Closer,” a sentiment that doubles for this album after all these years.
‘Flowers in the Dirt’ (1989)
This one’s like a sprawling Day-Glo orange mansion: a stately place to inhabit with a gag-inducing paint job.
Yes, the distinctly ’80s-sounding production values can be off-putting, conjuring horrific mental images of parachute pants, shoulder pads and Andrew McCarthy.
But get past the excessively reverbed snare drum hits and the gaudy, gross synth lines typical of the era in question and focus on the songs themselves, and you’ll find a sturdy batch of tunes that rank among of McCartney’s best of that decade.
Partially credit Elvis Costello, who helped write and/or produce several tracks here and duets with McCartney on an invigorated “You Want Her To.”
Elsewhere, breezy pop daydream “Distractions,” the earnest acoustic ode to friendship “Put It There” and the lyrically quaint but sonically turbulent “We Got Married” are “Flowers” in full, radiant bloom.
‘Tug of War’ (1982)
OK, yeah, you have to laundry-pin your nostrils shut and get past the pair of Stevie Wonder collabs: “Ebony and Ivory” (cringe) and “What’s That You’re Doing?” (hitting fast forward).
Both are cheesy enough to double as mozzarella substitutes and have gotten this album dinged over the years, even if the former was a hit.
Still, on his first album after John Lennon’s death, McCartney reunited with the “Fifth Beatle,” producer George Martin, for a record that remains equally affecting and ambitious, sweeping in scope and sentiment alike, from the symphonic grandeur of the title track to the touching remembrance of his murdered friend that is “Here Today.”
Yeah, there are goofy moments, such as the rockabilly-leaning Carl Perkins duet “Get It” — yeah, we’d rather not — but more often than not they work, such as deliriously odd funk left turn “Dress Me Up As a Robber,” where McCartney wonders, “What’s the point of changing, when I’m happy as I am?”
Rhetorical question, that.
‘Chaos and Creation in the Backyard’ (2005)
When in doubt, remember, WWTYD?
The “TY” here stands for Thom Yorke, of course.
For the first time in 21 years, McCartney worked with an outside producer, recruiting longtime Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich to oversee his 12th solo album.
Godrich’s influence can be heard demonstrably in places, such as the “OK Computer”-esque sonic accents that open “How Kind of You.”
But mostly, he oversees a meticulously recorded, very intimate-sounding record that perfectly suits the tenor of this understated, delicately wrought collection of songs.
When McCartney gives voice to beatific ballad “Jenny Wren,” for instance, it sounds as if he’s in the room with you, practically whispering it in your ear.
As such, “Chaos” consistently feels bold in its very palpable sense of vulnerability, like someone giving you the key to their locked diary.
“There is a fine line / Between recklessness and courage,” McCartney sings at the outset of this one, straddling it like a pro — then and now.
Who: Paul McCartney
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: T-Mobile Arena, 3780 Las Vegas Blvd South
Tickets: $49.50-$520 (888-929-7849)