FLEETWOOD MAC, Tusk -- Warner Bros. 2HS 3350.
Say goodby to the Seventies and banish the lingering apparation of the Sixties. For the return of Fleetwood Mac, Washington enters the Eighties.
We know this is 1980 because John Stewart, the lately discovered sybil of the Sixties, tells us so. He says that what Lindsay Buckingham has created in this new Fleetwood Mack album is "the music of the '80s, the wave of the future." He has seen the future, and he likes it.
Well then, ladies and gentlemen, step right up for your first peek at the new decade. Come and adore her: mysterious, sinuous, expensive and self-satisfied. A high-tech hangover of the Seventies, just as the Seventies were a Muzak elevator chorus of the Sixties.
Truck out to the Capital Centre on Sunday, that dome on the range where the Big Mac will play, and get your first glimpse of the Me, Two decade.
Americans have a liking for the definitive decade. We tend to pigeonhole sociological changes as if they were single events and vice versa. The shuddering effects of the World War i on the economy and the cyclical loosening of society's stays are tossed together as the Roaring Twenties, while we talk as if the Vietnam War was scheduled around the Woodstock weekend.
The Depression covers the Thirties like a sad Colossus. Come the Forties, and the American West is transformed by Hollywood into the Eastern Front, and John Wayne into Douglas MacArthur.
A restlessness like jazz infests the Fifties, and the anti-hero is risen: Marlon Brando, James Dean and rock'n'roll. We have looked homeward that far -- the formulaic televisionation of the Fifties has assured their place in the cultural pantheon -- but we cannot let go of the Sixties, or any of its watermarks: the Beatles, the endless anguish on Indochina, our essentially evangelistic liberalism or Watergate (characteristically, if not chronologically, a phenomenon of the Sixties.)
But nobody likes the Seventies, nor claims them. They were shadow years, placesavers; addenda, not even epilogue. They were, if anything, the perfect Washington years. The issues were bureaucratic, monetary, political -- bloodless. Recession has not the drama of Depression, and the face of the widely heralded New South is is veiled.
Transition is the watermark of the Seventies: reactionary rock to punk to new wave, funk to disco and pop to the Bee Gees. It has been a decade more memorable for arts than for labor statistics. The almanacs will record the dropping dollar, but the real touchstones are all more ethereal: the Baryshnikove defection, the Doonesbury Pulitzer, the Polish Pope.
This is the way the Seventies end, not with a bang but a simper.
Send in the clowns and share your space.
Apocalypse now; stayin' alive.
The Year of the Child; Jonestown
that'll be the day.
sing a song of Sixties pence, a pocket full of wry . Fourteen million albums is a lot of dough for any pie.
Laid end to end, they'd stretch from New York to Los Angeles, as the World Book used to say. It's 14 times "platinum," and into a whole new vein of global commercialism. And that's how many copies of "Runmours" Fleetwood Mac sold a couple of years back, becoming the most visible overachievers of the music industry. The most likely not to succeed themselves.
Now comes "Tusk," as long-anticipated as the Kennedy campaign. Gloriously produced in digital precision, redolent of relevance. Absolutely strudded with Fleetwood Mack trademarks. The dilettante's delight.
Hear Lindsay Buckingham record his own multu-track song at home just like ToddRundgren used to do. Feel John McVie's bass turn your chest wall into a walking woofer. See Stevie Nicks preparing to turn "Sisters of the Moon" into a mystical stage persona. Sort of Son of "Rhiannon."
The fact is, "Tusk" is, by and large, boring. Pretty, but dumb.
Surely Nicks doesn't think she has invented a striking new phase when she sings about "drowning in the sea of love." Christine McVie, who once knew the knack of turning three basic chords into attractive little ballads, is still at it, only now she's writing three basic chords. And Mick Fleetwood keeps drumming, and John McVie keeps thumping, and Lindsay Buckingham keeps polishing the production tapes. . . it's like musical marzipan.
Only once does that other-worldly witch-woman Stevie Nicks sounds truly alluring and that's when she reads a dangerously familiar phrase: You feel good; I said, it's funny that you understood. I knew that you would, 'Cause when you were good You we're very, very good . But having that Charybdis of cliche like a seasoned actor, she promptly falls down and begins emoting like a wind-up doll: I've never been a calm blue sea, I've always been a storm .
The biggest disappointments are Buckingham's songs, which were among the best and most eccentric numbers on "Rumours." Those quicksilver changes of mood and rythm, and the unpredictability of songs like "Never Going Back Again" and "You Can Go Your Own Way" and stunningly absent from this double album (which Buckingham nevertheless dominated, having written nine of the 20 songs).
The one really unique and fascinating number is the title cut (which is also the radio single), and what's most interesting about it is its ambiguities. Why use the USC Trojan Marching Band to supply a roaring white-noise effect and overdub it onto a plain -- elliptically plain -- song? Is this "Sgt. Pepper" revisited? And which of the many wonderful Freudian possibilities explains the title itself?
You wanna look at Stevie Nicks? Go to the Cap Centre. You wanna know why "Rumours" sold 14 million copies? Buy "Rumours."
We all know this has been a busy time for Fleetwood Mac. Christine traipsing around behind the Beach Boys tour to be with Dennis Wilson, Stevie Nicks warbling with Kenny Loggins, Buckingham getting his hair cut -- these things intrude. Maybe they just didn't notice they were writing shoddy songs. Maybe Buckingham was so excited by the developments in digital-laser recording, he didn't care what the base material was like. Maybe by the next album, the novelty will have worn off. But this -- this is all second-hand news.