Like McCartney, his 1970 solo record, Paul McCartney's first studio album in nearly four years is largely self-created -- except for being produced by Nigel Godrich, who has polished the likes of Radiohead, Travis, and Beck. Counter to its title, Chaos and Creation is casual and comforting, and goes down smooth, with echoes of "Blackbird" and "Julia," latter-day Beatles tunes.
There's also versatility here. The best cut is "Riding to Vanity Fair," a dreamy, intoxicating track about the false steps one may take in forming a friendship. McCartney says he had trouble fitting "Vanity Fair" onto the album, and it is an anomaly, surfacing between the skeletal faux Brasiliana of "A Certain Softness" and the gentle strum of "Follow Me." Lyrics have never been McCartney's forte; melody is, and it serves him well here. Such tunes as "Fine Line" and the "Let It Be"-like "Anyway" are very pretty, and production touches like the overdubbed chorus on "Anyway" and the occasional string section spice up overly laid-back tracks.
But overall, McCartney sounds a mite too comfortable here. The rocker who last surfaced on You Devil Run, a stunningly slick and hard collection of covers McCartney released in 1999, is nowhere to be heard here.