Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lindsey Buckingham "Seeds We Sow" 'A decent collection of polished tuneful folksy tunes, with mesmerizing guitar playing'

Don't Lose the Magic

Lindsey Buckingham's latest album is pretty good and all, but it can't match the drug-fueled mania of his best work.

Fleetwood Mac is firmly associated with middle-of-the-road 1970s radio rock. In addition, every song Stevie Nicks has ever written meanders into the same plodding New Agey groove. And, in addition to that, Christine McVie writes extremely accessible melodic pop. Put these factors together, and the result is that if you’re not watching for it, it’s possible to listen to Fleetwood Mac and miss the fact that Lindsey Buckingham is completely fucking off his head on cocaine.

Buckingham’s spastic is-he-really-not-well-or-is-that-genius is on display throughout Fleetwood Mac’s oeuvre. You can see it most consistently on 1979’s Tusk, where on songs like “What Makes You Think You’re the One,” Buckingham alternates between shouts and whispers while the music staggers along like a constipated calliope being buffeted by high winds.

But if you really want the full force of Buckingham’s chemically-induced derangement, you need to check out his first couple of solo albums. Law and Order, from 1981 is one of the most freakishly ADD albums in existence. Buckingham’s hindbrain spends the entire 36 minutes trying to crawl out through his nostrils. The first song, “Bwana,” starts with jungle noises and a hint of bongo before that’s abandoned and we get Buckingham shouting, mewling, and yodeling up and down his range almost at random until the back half of the song gets into what sounds like a series of raucous kazoo solos, because jungles are well known for kazoos. Other highlights include a slowed down, cabaret-singer-on-a-bender version of “September Song,” and “That’s How We Do It in L.A.” where Buckingham spits bile so enthusiastically he appears to be in danger of burning a whole through his tonsils. The whole thing has a queasy fey energy, like a truckload of fairies strung out on… well, strung out on cocaine.

Go Insane, Buckingham’s next album from 1984, is his New Wave exercise, which makes it marginally more stylistically grounded. It’s still pretty nuts though, with drum loops jerking as Buckingham uncorks spiky guitar blasts that scrape and wail and wander into the corner to die. On the title track, a chorus of multi-track Buckinghams intone menacingly about his loss of mental health. It’s the music Hal from 2001 might perform if he were to ingest a staggering amount of coke.

In light of these predecessors, Buckingham’s just released latest effort, The Seeds We Sow, is surprisingly restrained. Specifically, it’s an entirely decent collection of polished tuneful folksy tunes, with mesmerizing guitar playing. At times it seems like he’s turned into Sufjan Stevens or Devandra Banhardt—and in so doing, he demonstrates convincingly why classic Lindsey Buckingham was a much, much more entertaining performer than Sufjan Stevens and Devandra Banhardt put together. Fey and pretty is okay, but fey and batshit crazy is better.

There are some signs of the old Lindsey. “Rock Away Blind,” for example, shifts dynamics in a way that suggests the manic dementia of old. “End of Time” has an over-carbonated drumbeat threatening to bash its way out of the lyrical guitar line and catchy chorus. “One Take” sounds like it could be a Tusk outtake.

Best of all is the electric version of “Seeds We Sow.” For the concluding track on the album, Buckingham abandons the drifty hippie persona, and uncorks squiggling keyboards, unhinged multi-tracked choruses, and pilled-up drums. The song is a burping, staggering, quivering mess—finishing up with a totally badass rock star guitar solo. Eat your heart out, Eddie Van Halen.

Noah Berlatsky
Splice Today

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Lindsey Buckingham at the Vic | Concert preview
Buckingham’s new Seeds We Sow proves that his genius isn’t limited to the Mac. 

By Steve Dollar

Pop’s greatest soap opera has been in reruns for ages: Erstwhile supergroup Fleetwood Mac last toured in 2009, reviving the backstage drama and ex-flame flameouts that made 1977’s Rumours one of the biggest phenomena in recorded music history. Guitar wizard Lindsey Buckingham gets credit as the band’s sonic mastermind, but his solo career never gets its due. And that’s plain silly. As Buckingham’s new, stellar Seeds We Sow makes evident on track after track, his genius isn’t limited to the Mac’s contrapuntal “heartbreak and revenge” dynamic.

At his best, the lifelong Californian combines the ambitious, folk-inspired chops of a Richard Thompson with the symphonic imagination of a Brian Wilson. Now on a rare tour—his last solo go-round was three years ago—Buckingham brings a satchel of masterful three- and four-minute tunes. They may begin as delicately as “That’s the Way Love Goes,” with a simple harpsichord-driven melody, but they quickly build into buoyant epiphanies of sound: Buckingham’s urgent falsetto multitracked as a guitar solo keens high above, before everything cascades down the scales to a whisper.

It will be fascinating to see how the singer pulls off his complex arrangements outside a studio. Though any trade-off will definitely favor electric spontaneity and emotional intensity, Buckingham can conjure a torrent of drama with just his voice and a guitar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ man. Relax, it's just music.

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