Review of Available Light EP by James McCartney

Being the son of a revered, wealthy, and world famous former Beatle must have its advantages. One imagines that James McCartney, son of Paul, has never had to haul his guitar around Britain's toilet circuit or desperately struggle to attract the attention of record companies. There's a flip side to this, however: the younger McCartney faces a constant battle to be judged on his own merits rather than damned by unflattering comparisons to his father.

James McCartney Available Light EP

Make no mistake, any such comparison would be unflattering; it would also, of course, be unfair. It is difficult to compete with the man who wrote 'Yesterday', 'She's Leaving Home' and 'Eleanor Rigby'. Criticising James for falling short of such heights on his first record would be harsh, given that maybe half a dozen pop songwriters have ever scaled them. Once you rid yourself of the idea that James might knock out something as good as 'Penny Lane' in his spare time, it's possible to enjoy his music for what it is.

McCartney specialises in clean-sounding, competently executed rock music which sounds like Jeff Buckley and (early) Radiohead with the edges smoothed off. The record's best track is its first, 'Angel', a radio-ready soft rock song enlightened by a careering electric guitar riff and clever bridge. The rest of the EP doesn't pull up any trees, but there's also nothing here which suggests the release is merely a rich kid's vanity project. 'Denial' is a decent stab at nineties American rock, all anguished vocals, sulky lyrics, and dramatic grunge riffing. 'Glisten' is a collection of passably entertaining Buckley-isms which, like much of Available Light, benefits from McCartney's undoubted ability with a six-string.

Voyeurs will hunt in vain for lyrics unambiguously written by James about his father. Perhaps Paul is the subject when James writes of 'My friend standing right by my side'. Perhaps the lines 'And I don't think that you're recognising your full potential/And I'm not going to put up with it for that much longer' are intended as a withering critique of his solo career. Perhaps not. The only words on the EP which are clearly an account of a father-son relationship were written by Neil Young, whose 'Old Man' is covered here. James' rendition of the song is faithful and unspectacular, but his decision to cover a track which begins with the line 'Old man look at my life, I'm a lot like you were' suggests that, at the very least, he is not afraid of drawing our attention to who his dad is. Perhaps he is confident of surviving the comparisons.

Nick Gale

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