Greetings, Glancers! Not content with arsing about on his own and making sweet sweet music with his Missus, McCartney returned to what got him on the ladder in the first place – a band of buddies. Wings is a band I always knew from a young age due to Live And Let Die and I’ve been looking forward to delving into their catalogue to see how the differ from and compare with The Beatles. Of the eight songs listed, I don’t recognise any of them, beyond a cover. Oh dear, it doesn’t look like the album was received very well so this could be a slog.
‘Mumbo‘ has a lot to live up to, you would think. I assume there was a fair level of hype around this at the time – Paul’s first band after leaving The Beatles. You would think that, outside of whatever singles were released, the album opener would need to kick you in the nuts (with glee). It does begin with a nut-kicking series of screams from Paul. The solo piano notes – you already know I’m not a fan of that particular style – but at least it’s spliced with organ blasts and smatterings of guitar. It’s more loose than what I would have expected from an opener, but the band sound like they’re having fun, which isn’t exactly the vibe you get from the last couple of Beatles albums. It’s quite groovy – I don’t think there’s enough substance to justify the full four minutes, but it does the job for me on first listen.
‘Bip Bop‘ open like a jaunty back-woods precursor to someone’s baby being eaten. ‘Bip bop’ in other words. It screeches into the Blues lane as the vocals start, while retaining the McCartney rhythm we all know. The vocals are quite unusual, the lyrics a mixture of nonsense and warbling, and with sprinkles of backing vocals from Linda. You see I fall back on mentioning the length of the song when I’m bored – I’m typing this line before the three minute mark and there’s another ninety seconds or so to go. The remaining 90 seconds are essentially identical to any other 90 seconds from the song.
‘Love Is Strange‘ has a loose feeling again, a riff looping over and over before the drums do something similar, but nifty, then it all pulls together. Is it an instrumental version? It’s almost the two minute mark when the the familiar melody and lyrics begin. It is quite different from the version I know – not a song I have any great love for in the first place, nor do I have anything against it. This feels more like a B-Side – some things I like, others I wonder why they bothered.
‘Wild Life‘ is over six minutes long, so it better be a masterpiece compared to the previous tracks. A brief vocal intro followed by almost a minute of overlapping chords give way to a lead vocal. Some great yells in the middle of these vocals, though it does feel repetitive. Once the backing vocals join we get a little more depth and density. Halfway now and, it’s a little boring. Not quite tedious, but it’s hardly exciting. The final half is more repetition, more screaming, not a lot more.
‘Some People Never Know‘ is also over 6 minutes long. If the last song was anything to go by, we could be in for a slog. It opens with some pleasant folk ditty guitars, expanding into an old sitcom intro style. The verses are tidy – nice dual vocals from Paul and Linda – so far so good. This is a simple, old fashioned ballad with a modern 70s twist – a dash of hippy charm, a fluid ounce of McCartney magic, and any arsing about stripped away. Lyrically, it hits that sweet spot of being both personal and universal. It’s maybe longer than it should be, but beyond the final thirty seconds or so of hand drumming, it doesn’t feel drawn out.
‘I Am Your Singer‘ takes us back to a sub three minute time-frame. It’s a strange, maudlin-toned song with a broken beat which picks up after the thirty second mark. From there we get a catchy melody, flutes, and plenty of vocals of Linda. It’s quite sweet while it lasts.
‘Tomorrow‘ threatens in its opening seconds a retread of the single piano rhythm I’m always yapping about. Thanks to the eventual beat and the vocal melodies it avoids this. It’s another sweet love song. Lovely harmonies to back up Paul’s lead make this feel like a lost Beatles track.
‘Dear Friend‘ closes the album. It features a sullen piano opening along with an emotive Paul vocal. The lyrics sound like they are about John. Some percussive nudges drop after the first minute and Paul reverts to moans and ooohs before a huge string surge steers into view. This feels like the album’s centrepiece, and clearly a lot of thought and emotion went into the writing and recording. It probably doesn’t need to be as long as it is, but unlike those in the first half this doesn’t feel as stretched.
There aren’t any bad songs here, but the opening half is let down by a reliance on feeling loose and using ideas which probably sounded good at the time but didn’t translate to an interesting listening experience. These songs tended to be overlong which made them feel more average. Thankfully the second disc is stronger – Paul’s melodic and lyrical prowess comes to the fore and as such the songs feel less like rarities and more like they were put together with effort and passion. In other words, a strong second side does its best to dispel memories of how plain the first half was.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Some People Never Know. I Am Your Singer. Tomorrow. Dear Friend.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Wild Life!
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