Album review: Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac - Tusk Deluxe Edition (Rhino)

Fleetwood Mac in 1979.

Fleetwood Mac in 1979.

HOW DO you follow an album like Rumours? You can't. Born of heartache, recrimination, love lost, and new love with your ex looking over your shoulder, it was a cathartic, emotionally raw, confessional, and all too real work.

In 1977, "they meant it, maaann!" and it is why Rumours is still cherished today. When the sprawling double album Tusk was unleashed two years later, it was met with bewilderment, judged a failure, and not a little bizarre - particularly the idiosyncratic, oddball songs by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. There was also a hell of a lot of cocaine going up people's noses, hence Tusk veers from gentle and mellow to manic and hyper at the drop of a hat.

Time has been kind to Tusk though and it has come to be seen as possibly the band's most experimental, left-field moment. This is borne out by the fact indie-rock weirdos Camper Van Beethoven released a note-for-note cover of the album in 2002. REM, Tame Impala, and Best Coast have also paid homage. This is significant, as Tusk's most out there songs, indeed the album as a whole, was due to the vision, drive, and determination of Buckingham.

Buckingham was impressed by the emergent punk and new wave movements, particularly with what was happening in New York and the early Talking Heads albums. Determined to keep Fleetwood Mac relevant, he unapologetically soaked up the new influences. It could have been terrible - established superstars jumping on the new trend. Instead, punk allowed Buckingham create songs that foreshadow developments in later indie music, and that today, sound startlingly contemporary. His songs also have a rougher, looser, feel to them and are noticeably less polished production-wise - deliberately so - than the other tracks.

The frantic, fuzz-rock bounce of 'The Ledge' and 'That's Enough For Me' seem to anticipate both the aforementioned Camper Van Beethoven and the country-punk stomp of the Meat Puppets; the sublime dreamy, languid, psychedelia of 'That's All For Everone' is Tame Impala 30 years before the real thing (the Aussies covered it in 2012 ); and given songs like the wonderful 'Don't Blame Me', it's easy to see why REM were impressed. The Talking Heads influence is apparent on 'Not That Funny', but it has enough individuality that it would not sound out of place in a contemporary indie clubnight.

This is why Tusk has endured. Yes Christine McVie and the great Stevie Nicks contributed some wonderful moments (Nick's magnificent, dark, 'Sisters Of The Moon' is Tusk's 'Gold Dust Woman' ) but their songs were more conventional, playing it safe.

Hipsters have latched onto 1987's 'Everywhere' as the reason to cherish Fleetwood Mac. Indeed it is a song to cherish, but if they really knew anything about indie, Tusk is the album they would venerate.

This de luxe reissue comes with copious alternative takes of the album tracks, as well as demos. The highlights though are the live tracks from London, Tucson, and St Louis, particularly the iconic 'Oh Well', from the Peter Green era, which Buckingham damn near makes his own.

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