The former Fleetwood Mac guitarist emerges from the darkness with his strongest solo album in years
With a career spanning half a century, Lindsey Buckingham’s pop sensibilities have yet to diminish, even after a three-year rough patch that would have put anyone else out of commission.
Since 2018, he has been fired from Fleetwood Mac, suffered a heart attack and vocal cord damage, and of course, experienced a global pandemic.The album delayed for approximately three years, but Lindsey is back in full swing with his self-titled, self-produced, and self-written album: Lindsey Buckingham.
Opening the album with a song that’s characteristically Buckingham, “Scream” features a steady rhythm guitar to drive the song, chiming bells, and lyrical Buckinghamisms such as, “Over and over, red, red rover.” With each facet of his pop-melody-mind on display, the song acts as the perfect hint of what’s to come on the album.
The first single, “I Don’t Mind” is the track that truly showed us Lindsey is back and better than ever. With indie-pop flavors and wistful vocals that ricochet between the eardrums, his singular voice is able to create many layers of texture to encompass his lead vocal. Striking lyrics such as “Oh my love, the sky is burning,” along with the near perfect production of this song show that his compositional prowess is perfectly intact.
Artist: Lindsey Buckingham
Album: Lindsey Buckingham
Label: Reprise Records
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
The second single, “On the Wrong Side” seemed to perfectly coincide with his press cycle for the album – drama with Fleetwood Mac. Speaking candidly with Rolling Stone, Buckingham laid out his official side of the Stevie Saga, saying that she had him fired because she “wanted to shape the band in her own image, a more mellow thing.” He also made a few snide comments on Stevie’s personal life, to which Stevie responded, “We could start in 1968 and work up to 2018 with a litany of very precise reasons why I will not work with him. To be exceedingly clear, I did not have him fired, I did not ask for him to be fired, I did not demand he be fired. Frankly, I fired myself.”
Featuring a ripping guitar solo and harmonies that sound reminiscent of Nicks-McVie, musically, “On the Wrong Side” is a song that can stand without context. With the added drama, however, the lines “We were young and now we’re old / who can tell me which is worse? / I’m out of pity, I’m out of time / Another city, another crime,” take on a whole lot more meaning – a feat that each member of Fleetwood Mac has capitalized on for the past 50 years.
VIDEO: Lindsey Buckingham performs “On The Wrong Side” on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
One thing about Buckingham’s career is that he is always evolving. The unexpected “Swan Song” opens like an early 2000s spy film, and we can imagine him standing there in a leather trenchcoat. Keeping with the times, Lindsey’s looping drum tracks propel the song as his guitar takes off and soars through to the ending. With a “Swan Song” typically denoting the end of an artist’s career, it can be insinuated that the chaotic track is a reflection of the tumultuous break with Fleetwood Mac: “Has the queen lost her sight?” With an international tour on his horizon, it is doubtful that he’s announcing his own retirement. Elsewhere on the album, “Power Down” features a similar sonic aesthetic as “Swan Song,” but this time outlining the feelings of heartbreak.
A doo-wop style ballad, with a soft California feel, “Blind Love” unpacks a theme that is all too common in Lindsey’s catalog: uncertain love. The highlight of the track, as with most of his songs, are the soothing harmonies, but the percussion section is where we hear a blind spot in his production, with a rather generic drum track looping.
Showcasing his folk roots, Buckingham’s cover of Pozo-Seco’s “Time” is an example of the music that helped inform his sound from the very beginning. His arrangement is much softer than the original version, but as the lone cover amongst a sea of self-penned material, the song occupies a sentimental space on the album.
In December of 2020, I asked Lindsey about his lyrical stimuli, to which he answered: “I would say my lyrics have become more poetic over time, they’re sort of Rorschach Tests, more open to interpretation.” With folksy nylon-stringed guitars and philosophically tautological lyrics, “Blue Light” teeters on the edge of upbeat psychobabble.
The melancholy romance of “Santa Rosa” is a glimpse into his troubled marriage with Kristen Messener, who recently filed for divorce (but he says they’re working on it!). In his interview with Rolling Stone, Buckingham explained that the song was inspired by a disagreement with Kristen, saying, “My wife wanted to move the entire family up to Santa Rosa Valley… she wanted to build a house on a horse ranch.” The lyrics to “Santa Rosa” plainly show that Buckingham did not want to leave his home in Brentwood: “We built our home with heart and soul / Oh, no I can’t let it go.” With windswept harmonies and a subtle reference to the 60s hit, “Baby, It’s You” (“It doesn’t matter what you say / I’m gonna love you any old way’), this song nostalgically traces the scenic top-down drive from Brentwood up to Santa Rosa.
Bending towards the Baroque with the dulcet “Dancing,” each bright guitar strum sounds almost like a harpsichord as he psychologically unravels his thoughts in the style of a lullaby to close out the album.
Oftentimes with artists of Lindsey Buckingham’s stature, new releases get ignored in favor of their old standards. His new, self-titled release, however, is not to be ignored. Songs like “I Don’t Mind,’)” “On the Wrong Side,” and “Santa Rosa” should all be considered Lindsey Buckingham essentials.
One thing that this album makes crystal clear, is that Lindsey Buckingham can still write a really fucking good pop song.