10:27 PM CDT, September 5, 2011
3 stars (out of 4)
In the increasing down time between Fleetwood Mac tours and albums, Lindsey Buckingham has become unusually prolific as a solo artist, doubling his career output in the last five years by producing three albums. The latest, “Seeds We Sow” (Eagle Rock Entertainment), is essentially a one-man-band affair, with Buckingham donning his mad-scientist lab coat to orchestrate mood swings on voice, guitar and percussion.
Unencumbered by the commercial and ego demands in Mac, Buckingham affirms his talent for turning eccentricity into twisted pop songs. He tackles big themes: how time reveals consequences; the grudging arrival of enlightenment. He favors undulating guitars, voices woven into choirs, a shimmering sense of space. Not that he’s gone soft. Instead, he’s restless, anxious, as exemplified by the protagonist in “Stars Are Crazy” who awakens in the middle of the night to torture himself with questions he can’t answer.
The turbulence lurking just beneath the surface crashes through on “One Take,” a nasty song about a despicable character (A politician? A rock star? Buckingham himself?) who’s “got a publicist who covers up the avarice.” The jumpy beat gives way to a lovely vocal interlude, only to have Buckingham shatter the fine china with a crazed guitar solo.
Buckingham has a knack for disrupting beauty, intruding on the serene. A deceptively hushed vocal brings “Seeds We Sow” to a seething finish. Tense guitar-playing and furtive percussion overtake “In Our Own Time.” And even as mortality closes in on “End of Time,” the narrator still can’t let go of the lies and hostility that wrecked a relationship.
A cover of the Rolling Stones’ “She Smiled Sweetly” makes for a particularly apt closer. The guitarist is a huge fan of the Stones’ mid-‘60s pop era, a time of gloriously jaded singles and social commentaries. He plays “She Smiled Sweetly” as a sparse, haunted, 3 a.m. reckoning, exhaling the lines as if he were expiring. “Don’t worry,” the song’s femme fatale advises as the narrator stresses out, his fate sealed.
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