Like discovering in your 40s that Neighbours is still going, there was something sweetly reassuring to hear that Fleetwood Mac were still at each others’ throats in 2018. According to Lindsey Buckingham, a spat about award show walk-on music and an unforgivable acceptance speech smirk saw him fired, at Stevie Nicks’ behest, and the drama didn’t end there.
The following year he underwent a triple heart bypass following a heart attack. And now, in the middle of a divorce, he’s said to be patching things up with the dysfunctional Mac family. Rock’s greatest soap opera remains packed with cliff-hangers.
Meantime, the fresh focus on his solo career – which Nicks claimed was behind his dismissal in the first place – has produced the first Buckingham album since 2011 (not counting the all-but-Nicks surrogate-Mac record that was 2017’s UK top-five Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie). And it proves that, musically too, there’s still a lot more story to be told.
Frankly, it’s a dazzler; a dynamic folk-pop record steeped in style and bristling with modern touches. The gorgeous I Don’t Mind repurposes the chopped-up vocal effects of Little Lies in an attempt to create a sonic cubism. Swan Song is so swamped with R&B throbs, frantic EDM beats and processed backing vocals that Buckingham sounds like a man lost in the machine.
The electronic ballroom western Blind Love, the bubbling electro-pop Blue Light and frail and amorphous closer Dancing would all slot beautifully on to a Magnetic Fields compendium. What Tango In The Night did for the evolution of Fleetwood Mac’s sound into a definitive 80s aesthetic, this album does for melodic folk rock in 2021.
It’s a record about endings. Time is an enemy on both Byrds-y Pozo-Seco Singers cover Time and the experimental laptop-pop Power Down, either a very lively deathbed address or a digital divorce song driven by edgy nervous tension. Blind Love similarly smacks of couples counselling, while Santa Rosa details a family fleeing Los Angeles for the wine country in the style of a synthetic Bruce Springsteen.
Most intriguing, On The Wrong Side tackles Buckingham’s backroom issues with Fleetwood Mac on tour – ‘another city, another crime, I’m on the wrong side’ – with the same sort of wailing exuberance that made Go Your Own Way a master class in sounding jubilantly miserable. Yet musically Lindsey Buckingham is all new beginnings and bold futures. Fleetwood Mac missed a trick by not having their name on it.