“In love our problems disappear”: ever since the high days of the Beatles, Paul McCartney had a thing about love. Even after – especially after – he’d had to play the hard-nosed one and break up that band, “love” remained as a presence in his songwriting, something increasingly abstract and mystical: a universal solvent.
There are worse things to have a bee in one’s bonnet about, of course. It’s easy to use McCartney’s lyrics to mock or dismiss his drippiness: the words to “Pipes Of Peace” are certainly clumsier, possibly even triter than those of “Ebony And Ivory”. “Songs of joy instead of burn baby burn”: eek! It’s a similar record, but I think a rather better one. Both songs walk a tightrope over an abyss of crassness: “Ebony” topples in, while “Pipes” has a humility and sincerity that lets it (just about) cling on.
It’s also – though George Martin’s attention-deficit production tries its best to disguise the fact – a sterling melody and a well-put-together song. The calm solemnity of the opening lines, the sad turn on “planet we’re playing on” and the carefree tumbles in the instrumental break are affecting no matter what guff Macca is singing. McCartney’s professed ideal of love is as inert as ever: as usual, it’s prettiness that pulls him through.