Thursday, September 23, 2021

Lo-fi twists and unexpected turns on Lindsey Buckingham’s new solo album

When it comes to Fleetwood Mac, nothing should ever be taken for granted. Just when it looked as though the band had settled into a comfortable, pre-retirement holding pattern of greatest hits and sold-out stadia, Lindsey Buckingham managed to extend the soap opera for another season by getting himself fired from the group.

While personal tensions have been widely cited as reasons for Buckingham’s departure in 2018 (surprise surprise!), reports have also surfaced that the legendary guitarist and songwriter was tiring of Fleetwood Mac’s seemingly endless laps of honour and wanted the band to commit to a more creative musical project.

Now, released from the trappings of his former band’s commercial juggernaut, Buckingham has followed in Paul McCartney’s footsteps. He’s dispensed with other musicians altogether and retreated to his Los Angeles home studio to develop a new self-titled album — his seventh solo record and the first since 2011’s ‘Seeds We Sow’ – comprising ten refreshingly experimental and noticeably demo-like recordings. 


For an artist desirous of a new creative challenge, Buckingham wrong-foots his listeners entirely on the opening trio of songs, all of which occupy the same acoustic-driven, harmonically-rich territory that has served Fleetwood Mac so well over the past half-century. Fortunately, they’re all fantastic, suggesting that perhaps Buckingham has a point to prove to his old bandmates – look, I can still do Fleetwood Mac without you!

It’s only from track four, ‘Swan Song’, that the album starts twisting and turning, gathering up wildly diverse musical ingredients – from ‘50s crooning to ‘80s country ballads – and putting them through the Buckingham blender. The results are mixed, but it’s never dull, and – unlike ‘McCartney III’ – the less successful experiments on ‘Lindsey Buckingham’ never hang around for too long, with a total running time of just 37 minutes.

Recorded and produced by Buckingham with minimal outside interference, the album typically relies upon sudden guitar and synth bursts to inject energy into otherwise prosaic musical backdrops. It’s an approach that works particularly well on ‘On The Wrong Side’ and ‘I Don’t Mind’. Although the music sounds a little too perfunctory at times (‘Blind Love’ and ‘Santa Rosa’), Buckingham’s strong choruses ultimately bring the songs back on track.

Elsewhere on the album, ‘Blue Light’ is built on a synth bassline so cheesy that it wouldn’t sound out of place at a child’s birthday party. That said, it’s astonishing to find this cheese-fest co-existing so comfortably on the same record as ‘Swan Song’ – an alluring blend of choppy, sampled backing vocals and ‘90s drum loops that builds and builds towards a heady climax of guitar wizardry.

Despite the clunky rhythm section, ‘Blind Love’ is undeniably touching. With lines like “Blind love show me your soul / If you’ve been lying to me I’ve got to know”, it sounds like a timeless ‘50s love song, with a Buddy Holly-esque musical interlude thrown in for good measure.

Buckingham has never been the most consistent wordsmith, and there’s the sense across much of ‘Lindsey Buckingham’ that the lyrics are slightly undercooked. ‘Blue Light’ is ridden with clichés – “Is it too much or not enough? / If you win or lose it’s all the same” – while ‘Dancing’ is almost entirely incomprehensible, concluding as it does with the head-scratching lines, “Emptiness goes where supply meets demand / Business and murder go hand in hand / Dancing”.

However, the sincerity of Buckingham’s delivery generally sees him through. More importantly, his gift for melody remains very much intact. With a voice that’s still in great nick for a 71-year-old, he’s able to pick off melodies with ruthless efficiency.

The upshot is that for all of its musical flaws, ‘Lindsey Buckingham’ is an extremely enjoyable album to listen to. Whatever happens next in the world’s longest-running musical soap opera, Buckingham’s latest effort demonstrates that he still has plenty to offer as a songwriter, and that sometimes it’s better for old-timers to wean themselves off their greatest hits and start afresh with a blank canvas.

Tom Kirkham


Image: Lindsey Buckingham Official Album Cover

1 comment:

  1. So it's got to be worth a listen, then - but for me Mick Fleetwood was always indispensable to enjoying the 'Mac.


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