Though spread across fifty years, there are striking commonalities between the McCartneys. Not least, that all three are unafraid or embracing the less commercial aspects of music, even though, McCartney being McCartney, he can’t help slipping in the occasional damnably catchy melody. All three were written, performed and produced in their entirety by McCartney alone.
McCartney I was released in 1970, signalling the end of The Beatles. Quite lovely and winsome with its homespun, deceptively unfinished feel, it clearly came as a massive relief to McCartney to follow wherever his adventurous artistic spirit took him. Vilified at the time for contributing to the break-up of The Beatles, it has aged brilliantly.
McCartney II came along at the end of Wings’ career in 1980. It feels experimental and of its time – songs like (the dubiously titled) Frozen Jap and Coming Up embraced the new wave, in particular synthesisers and electronica. Again critically derided at the time, it too has since attained cult status, not least thanks to the “wonky electropop” (NME) of the Marmite 12-inch single Temporary Secretary.
McCartney III came out in 2020 – two years after Egypt Station, McCartney’s first US No.1 album in four decades – and feels like a change of pace again, with songs like Long Tailed Winter Bird and Seize The Day being more similar to the lo-fi pastoral imaginings of his debut solo album than to any of his music from recent decades. This time around it was critically well-received, and deservedly so.