Monday, September 15, 2008

Lindsey Buckingham's 'Gift'

Washington Times

Lindsey Buckingham
Gift of Screws

At every turn, "Gift of Screws" reminds the listener of Lindsey Buckingham's eclectic brand of pop songwriting.

Some of the 10 songs on this new album have been in progress for the better part of a decade. Some reprise themes of songs from the 2003 Fleetwood Mac reunion album, "Say You Will." Rather than sounding like retreads, however, the recordings feel vibrant and contemporary for the most part while retaining the familiar sounds of Mr. Buckingham's virtuosic guitar playing. It's all the more familiar because the Fleetwood Mac rhythm section (Mick Fleetwood on drums, John McVie on bass) joins in on a few tracks.

"Time Precious Time" is an acoustic ballad that opens with a frenzy of finger picking and a soaring vocal line. There is a muddled intensity to it, like a prelude struggling to transform into a theme. The rapid-fire arpeggios race harplike up and down the fret board as the singer repeatedly intones the title.

"Love Runs Deep" opens with an acoustic guitar and quick bass line - and until the electric guitar picks up, it could pass for a semisweet Coldplay song. Then the Fleetwood Mac vibe quickly intrudes in the form of harmonized vocals and a gritty guitar solo.

At 58, Mr. Buckingham seems eager to assert that he hasn't lost a step as a guitarist. He turns in another blisteringly fast acoustic picking effort with "Bel Air Rain," a speedy but downcast minor-key lament. More upbeat is "The Right Place to Fade," which opens with a cheerful cross of acoustic strumming and an electric solo.

The album's title track originally was scheduled for inclusion on "Say You Will." It's a weird, alluring mix of new-wave pop and garage rock with a peculiar squealing chorus that sounds as if it could be a B-52s outtake. It's also oddly out of step with the rest of the album, if only for its punkish bass line and shouted vocals.

"Did You Miss Me" is the most memorable track on "Gift of Screws."With its distinctively Coldplay-like intro, it's a sweet and rueful pop song with honeyed accents concealing a bitter core. (Indeed, the resemblance at times is so pronounced that it might be worth inspecting Chris Martin.) On the chorus, plucked guitar notes play over the rhythm guitar like a bell sounding over an orchestra. Mr. Buckingham sings, "Did you miss me/ In the evening/ When everyone is bound to dream?"

Fans probably didn't miss Mr. Buckingham all that much. He weighed in just two years ago with the impressive acoustic album "Under the Skin." If anything, "Gift of Screws" is a more impressive outing. It's typical of older rockers to return to the spirit of their glory days on late-career albums. It's impressive, then, that Mr. Buckingham has produced a recording that looks forward as much as it looks back.

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