Picks and Pans Review: Tusk
Mac enjoyed elephantine success on its last two efforts because of its superior, communal pop-rock smoothness. Whether it was Stevie Nicks' Rhiannon, Chris McVie's Over My Head or Lindsey Buckingham's Go Your Own Way, the idiosyncrasies of the group's three songwriters melded into a dominant Fleetwood sound. On the new four-sided Tusk, the three creative Macs have gone their own way: The 21 tunes are so disparate that the result seems more like three distinct solo efforts. Though a risky Great Leap, it's an admirable one, since the group is challenging its fans' affection rather than pandering to it with a retread. Side one sets up the LP's complex pattern. McVie's creamy, languorous ballad, Over & Over, ends with a dramatic build and fadeout. Then Buckingham crashes through with his clamorous, rhythmic The Ledge, one of a half-dozen cuts with his quirky-jerky imprimatur. Another McVie tune follows, a driving pop-rocker, Think About Me, that's the closest thing here to Mac's 1977 Rumours LP. Buckingham slugs back with Save Me a Place. (His new sound is unadorned and close to abrasive.) The side ends with Nicks' ethereal, reedy voice on Sara, a ballad. On side two, Buckingham angrily shouts What Makes You Think You're the One, followed by the album's loveliest track, Nicks' haunting Storms. The folkish harmonies, sumptuous instrumental textures and her frail voice are wrapped in a warm electric (or is it acoustic?) blanket of pleas and needs: "But never ever been a blue calm sea/ I've always been a storm." Then Buckingham again disperses a quiet mood with That's All for Everyone, a thudding, slow rocker featuring some bizarre chord sequences. The other two sides continue the pattern. Tusk may not be the Mac LP the world was waiting for, but it's nothing to tsk, tsk about. It's daring and imaginative, with plenty of subtle touches by three growing artists. Listen hard. It will grow on you.