Fleetwood Mac’s former guitarist goes his own way, but treads old ground
by Barry Divola
Sometimes the soap opera threatens to obscure the music. Case in point: Fleetwood Mac. The drugs, the affairs, the infighting, the walkouts and the reconciliations have become part of the band narrative, most recently in 2018 when, after increasing tensions in the group, Lindsey Buckingham was fired and replaced with Neil Finn and Mike Campbell for live shows. He’s taken his ball, gone home and made his first solo album in a decade.
Buckingham was always the weirdly shaped peg in the Mac machine while they helped create the ’70s US West Coast FM-rock universe. When he was given free rein on the band’s 1979 opus Tusk, the world discovered he was more enamoured with the left-field experimentation of Brian Wilson or Todd Rundgren: mercurial musicians and maverick producers with highly individual visions of how songs should sound.
This self-titled disc softly treads the same ground he has been covering for a while now – close-miked guitar played in his distinctive finger-picked style, lead vocals in his high, breathy register, layers of gossamer harmonies and beats that twitch and fidget. Case in point is first single I Don’t Mind, a sparkly wisp of a thing that rhymes willow with pillow and broken arrow with straight and narrow, while you’re left wondering how it might sound with Mick Fleetwood providing a big beat and Stevie Nicks cutting through with her white-winged dove vocals.
Remember, this is a man whose best-known solo hit, 1981’s Trouble, was a Vaseline-lensed soft-rock song he introduced with a repeated “two, a-three, a-four” count-in as if he was imitating Cookie Monster. Buckingham shoots for The Everly Brothers on the echo-laden Blind Love and constructs an aural Venn diagram where Paul Simon and Roy Orbison intersect on Time, but there’s a compressed and boxy aura around the production, while Swan Song threatens motion sickness with the strobe-like effect of fluttering Spanish guitars rubbing up against a beat with a case of the jitters.
The solo in On the Wrong Side proves he can still pull off the licks with ease, even if the song’s thin sound doesn’t match his virtuosity. Is it wrong to wish Buckingham would let it hang out again and build on the legacy of Go Your Own Way, a song that rocked and shimmered so majestically? Maybe that’s a place he no longer wishes to revisit, but these songs suggest yet another Mac reconciliation could be in order.
Lindsey Buckingham’s latest solo venture is a statement of intent
By Elizabeth Aubrey
September 16, 2016
Lindsey Buckingham – Lindsey Buckingham
It’s been a tumultuous few years for Lindsey Buckingham. After being fired from Fleetwood Mac in 2018, he had to undergo life-saving, open-heart surgery in 2019 and then the pandemic hit. Buckingham called it “a trifecta of events that were completely off the charts” – which is, perhaps, putting it mildly. Despite his troubles, Buckingham’s seventh studio album is far from a dour, downbeat affair. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Take early album track, “On The Wrong Side”. While it seems to address his acrimonious break-up with the band –“I’m outta pity,”he repeatedly croons – it’s an upbeat, stripped-back pop song which culminates in one of Buckingham’s signature, stomping electric guitar solos – and shows Fleetwood Mac just what they’re missing.
Drum machine led “Swan Song” is the album’s most inventive and surprising song, proving that the creator of “Tusk” has still got his knack for innovation and creating a daring pop hook.
While the weakest tracks here tend to veer into self-pity – the reflective, gentle and Searchers-like “Time” is a good example when Buckingham sings, “Some folks treat me mean”, these moments are usually short-lived. Buckingham is better when looking ahead, with purpose, as on the harmonious “Power Down”.
The self-title here feels like a statement of intent and with a strong solo offering like this, it may well make Fleetwood Mac think again.
Lindsey Buckingham’s latest album is a pop sensibility of precision
The ex-Fleetwood Mac star opines about his tumultuous relationship with former bandmates, but the music is poised and vibrant.
Fleetwood Mac haven’t released new music since 2013. They have become a behemoth of the nostalgia circuit, trading lucratively on past glories. But although the songs have dried up, the quarrels continue.
The latest outbreak of arguing in their long and disputatious history has been triggered by the arrival of the new solo album from Lindsey Buckingham, who was fired from the Mac’s ranks in 2018. He is still bristling at being expelled from the band that he helped turn into superstars in the 1970s. His feelings of hurt are chiefly directed at his former creative foil and ex-romantic partner, Stevie Nicks.
“Has the queen lost her sight?” he sings in “Swan Song”, one of Lindsey Buckingham’s 10 tracks. The apparent jibe at Nicks’s poor eyesight since childhood is compounded by verses evoking bitterness at being cast into limbo while the band toured in 2018 and 2019, which was rumoured beforehand to be a farewell. “Is it right to keep me waiting in the shadow of our swan song?” he choruses. His breathy voice belies a needling tone of self-pity.
Buckingham blames Nicks for kicking him out of Fleetwood Mac. In recent interviews, the 71-year-old has compared her to Donald Trump and speculated that she was jealous about his starting a family in his late 40s while she remained childless. Nicks riposted with a statement denying that she had him fired and repudiating the bitter suggestion of ill-feeling at his becoming a father.
There is a toxic quality to Buckingham’s resentment — especially in light of allegations that he behaved abusively towards Nicks when they were a couple, as claimed in Stephen Davis’s 2017 biography of Nicks, Gold Dust Woman. But whatever the shortcomings of its maker, and despite a troubled gestation, Lindsey Buckingham is not itself a poisonous experience.
Recorded in 2018, the album’s release was delayed by the fallout from Buckingham’s Fleetwood Mac ousting and then a heart attack in 2019. Lyrics about the ups and downs in a relationship have acquired an unfortunate significance after he and his wife Kristen Messner separated earlier this year. Yet Buckingham’s gifts as a songwriter and performer cut through the surrounding noise.
The music was recorded at his home studio in Los Angeles, with Buckingham playing all the instruments. It has been crafted with customary attention to detail and ear for melody, a pop sensibility of precision, concision and escapism. The result is a set of four-minute songs that try to find the sweet spot between simplicity and complexity, and often succeed in doing so.
Opening track “Scream” is a nocturnal erotic reverie set to a thrumming guitar rhythm, pounding drums and chanted choruses, a pocket-sized version of arena rock, at once curtailed and expansive. “On the Wrong Side” is based on a contrast between a tightly metronomic beat and exuberant synths and guitar solos. Layers of vocalisations and instrumentation are arranged with an acute sense of space and action.
Buckingham’s smoothly hoarse voice glides through these often fast-paced songs at a cruise-control tempo. Although the recordings were made before he sustained vocal damage during open-heart surgery in 2019, they betray the effects of time on his singing. Exertion is rationed. Lyrics are a mixture of cliché (“The future’s looking bright”) and cynicism (“Business and murder, they go hand in hand”). With the mawkish exception of “Dancing”, the music is poised and vibrant. It keeps afloat amid the wreckage of Buckingham’s Fleetwood Mac career.