Paul McCartney
Pipes of Peace
(EMI Paul McCartney Collection 89267)

I have a running joke in which after a lifelong worship of Paul McCartney, I am given the opportunity to interview him, and for my first "question" I pull out a copy of Pipes of Peace and demand that he buy it back from me. "Come on, you owe me five bucks for this piece of shit!" I'd scream. "No CD store will buy it back from me!" In reality, Pipes of Peace isn't as bad as all that, although it's easily one of the worst albums the man has ever put out. Continuing the duet-fever that plagued Tug of War, Paul tries to keep the "magic" alive by joining forces with Michael Jackson (on "Say Say Say" and "The Man") and (?) Stanley Clarke (on *wince* "Hey Hey"). The slickness of the previous album is apparent on Pipes of Peace, too, neither making a strong argument for George Martin's "impeccable taste" – they sound good, but way too slick, and in the case of this album, it illuminates the lazy mediocrity of the whole affair (including Paul's wrinkled clothes and gym shoes on the back cover – how much money does this guy have? Jesus, man, at least get out to a Banana Republic or something.)

"Pipes of Peace" opens the album on a good note (pianistically speaking, slightly above middle C, let's say), and it all goes down from there. There are no tracks on the album that I'd say I love hearing, although most are pleasant enough. "The Other Me," "Keep Under Cover," "Sweetest Little Show" – not exactly Paul's most memorable musical offerings. "The Other Me" is pretty good, but does feature the line "But something took a hold of me/and I acted like a dustbin lid." Yet one more example of why this man needs to work with a permanent lyricist. "Average Person" is "Penny Lane"-styled bullshit, very unlikable, another song that sounds like Wings years after that sound needed to go away. "Hey Hey," the McCartney/Stanley Clarke duet, might be the worst Paul song ever, sounding like a smooth jazz talk-show theme, really quite excruciating. It pains me even to devote this much time to writing about it, so I may as well give myself a little fun and declare it to be "worse than throat cancer."

"Tug of Peace" is a remix-style fusion of "Tug of War" and "Pipes of Peace" that sounds about as fresh as the first They Might Be Giants album, and about as enjoyable as Ghosts in the Machine-era Police (not a compliment). Are there any highlights? "So Bad" is still a quality song, for its cheese factor. "The Man" is interesting in that it's an acoustic-based song that features Michael Jackson (a rare blend), and seems to me to be a coming-out song. "Through Our Love," which closes the album, is also pleasant, although just as unmemorable as most of the other good songs on Pipes of Peace.

This edition adds three bonus tracks: "Twice in a Lifetime" (Paul's theme from the 1985 movie, a meandering but decent enough ballad that sounds as though he recorded it immediately after hearing "Careless Whisper"), "We All Stand Together" (Paul's theme for the children's cartoon "We All Stand Together," a very enjoyable song, one of my favorites, featuring "the Frog Chorus" that proves Paul is in his element when writing simple braindead crap), and "Simple as That" (a fair reggae-tinged anti-heroin song that cropped up on a tribute album and which points toward the harder edge Paul would demonstrate on Press to Play). Without these tracks ("We All Stand Together" in particular), Pipes of Peace would merit a two li'l puppy rating at best, but tonight I'm feeling magnanimous enough to give it the three. I'll always have a place in my heart for Pipes of Peace (all of Paul's 80s albums, actually, because that was "my" Paul period), but I'm not so nostalgic I can't smell shit when it's smeared on my face. Okay, I'm overstating it again, but you got to admit it was funny.

Review by Ivan Loverling