Saturday, September 18, 2021

REVIEW Lindsey Buckingham is an upbeat, frequently delightful album 8/10

Lindsey Buckingham tips his hat to ’60s pop on solo album
By Sam Richards

After what nearly amounted to a Fleetwood Mac reunion album with 2017’s Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, the first solo album from Lindsey Buckingham in a decade sounds as if it could have been the second disc of the fine 2011 solo release Seeds We Sow.

That isn’t a bad thing at all; far from it. The new self-titled album is full of songs that meld pop hooks ranging from pleasant to glorious with instrumentation—layers of acoustic guitars, in particular—that give the songs a subtle edge while maintaining, even magnifying, their sweetness.

Where Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie seemed to be striving for the sound of the late 1970s and mid-1980s glory years of Fleetwood Mac, the new solo album turns back inward. Lindsey Buckingham, like most of Seeds We Sow, is a true solo effort, with the guitarist playing all the instruments and doing all the singing. And if there’s a lack of the immediacy of his classics like “Go Your Own Way,”  “Monday Morning” or “Big Love,” there’s a depth of musicality that hits just as fast, if not quite as hard.

Buckingham was always the Mac member most likely to tip his cap to classic pop radio. For example, “I Don’t Mind,” with its cheery vocal choruses and sprightly layered guitars, sounds somewhat at odds with his breathy, mysterious singing. But the overall effect is mesmerizing, especially if you’re a fan of ’60s-style radio-ready pop. It’s like that, but with a comforting bed of acoustic guitars. It’s the kind of music that he makes best.

Similarly, “On the Wrong Side” is like a Mac song Lindsey Buckingham would have written, only shorn of the influences of other band members. While your mileage may vary, this listener sees that as an advantage. The song is about the ups and downs of being on the road with Fleetwood Mac: “I’m out of pity, out of time/ Another city, another crime,” he sings, getting philosophical. “We were young, now we’re old/ Who can tell me which is worse?” This song also includes the only extended electric guitar solo on the album, and it’s fantastic.

“Blind Love” is perhaps the most blatantly pop song here, about never stopping the search for the perfect partner. It is as if Buckingham took a classic early ’60s song (think Ricky Nelson’s “Dream Lover” and its ilk), and modernized the sound in a tastefully acoustic way.

There are modern touches scattered here and there. Both “Swan Song” and “Power Down” are driven by jittery drum loops; appropriate especially on the latter, where “powering down” could mean either turning off your laptop or disengaging from a relationship. “Swan Song” is an outlier on this album; unsettled and nervous, even if a tasteful acoustic guitar floats in and out.

The other outlier is “Dancing,” the album closer. It’s slow and ethereal, with Buckingham’s breathy vocals playing against both a strumming guitar that sounds like a harpsichord and moments of silence. The song isn’t about dancing, per se, but rather the holding pattern of life between happenings dreary or worse: “Emptiness goes where supply meets demand/ Business and murder, they go hand in hand.”

Also here is a reverent cover of “Time,” as performed in the mid-’60s by the Pozo-Seco Singers, a folk trio in which Hall of Fame country singer Don Williams first gained fame. In a sense, this song is a left turn on an album populated with left turns, its unadorned simplicity in contrast to the textured songcraft of most of the rest of the material.

“Dancing” and “Time” aside, Lindsey Buckingham is an upbeat, frequently delightful album that, on the surface, may seem a bit quaint. But these songs are more complicated, musically and lyrically, than might be apparent on first listen. And with most of these songs, that first listen will suck you in, anyway.

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