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Rolling Stone (11/26/1981), Lindsey Buckingham's Perfect Silliness < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

Rolling Stone (11/26/1981), Lindsey Buckingham's Perfect Silliness

Rolling Stone Album Review, November 26, 1981

Law and Order  (4 out of 5 stars)
Lindsey Buckingham
Asylum

Lindsey Buckinghamís Perfect Silliness
by Jon Pareles

In his own way, Lindsey Buckingham is a rock-ribbed traditionalist, but the tradition he valiantly and self-consciously upholds on his first solo album, "Law and Order," isnít hallowed and funky like rockabilly or Cajun music, Buckinghamís tradition is that of  the bigtime Hollywood wacko - perfectly symbolized by Brian Wilson in his sandbox - who creates, amid decadence and craziness, pop songs that are drenched in sweetly accessible innocence.  Itís the tradition of the copyright-royalties royalty whose fortunes have been made in three-minute bursts, a subculture as hermetic and all-American as the Mardi Gras Indians, albeit at the opposite end of the economic spectrum.  At its best, it boasts its own wild-eyed naivetť.  The idea of a grown man sitting in his basement singing "rah-ta-ta-ta" repeatedly into a microphone that costs more than my whole stereo - well, somehow, thereís a certain ironic charm.

Of course, Buckingham has earned his playtime.  With a little help from group chemistry, he turned flat-footed, middleweight Fleetwood Mac into a sparkling ubiquity (even if you donít own "Fleetwood Mac" or "Rumours," itís guaranteed you know someone who does).  An avowed Beach Boys fan, Buckingham probably coaxed his band mates into intricate harmonizing, and he definitely had a hand in giving Fleetwood Macís records that everything-is-beautiful California gloss.  Based on the evidence of "Law and Order," however, Lindsey Buckinghamís biggest contribution to Fleetwood Mac has been his unabashed fondness for pop music at its most hokey and hooky - not just sculpting vocal harmonies but carefully designing each phrase to tickle some pleasure center, no matter what the lyrics happen to say.  Pop must come to him almost by reflex. Interestingly, Buckingham also has a rock & roll urge that shows itself in screaming guitar solos (as on "Fleetwood Mac Live") and funny noises (all over "Tusk").  As Los Angeles archetypes go, Buckingham is definitely more Turtle than Eagle: at a certain point, heís happy to let his silliness conquer his perfectionism.  And once Rumours went over the top, the artist apparently decided he could trust his reflexes and use loose ends as embellishments.

So now that heís proved himself a pro, Lindsey Buckingham can make like a happy amateur.  Except for one drum-and-bass track and a background vocal here and there, Law and Order is a one-man disc.  If Buckingham needs to extend his range or techniques, he utilizes obvious tape tricks, strictly on the up and up.  The LP could be an extension of the starís tunes on Tusk: basement tapes with a million-dollar mix, while Buckingham and coproducer Richard Dashut try to hold back the giggles. Like the best die-hard popsters, Buckingham writes songs that seem both effortless and encyclopedic.  "Love from Here, Love from There" second-lines as if the twenty-four track machine were a New Orleans secret, and "Shadow of the West" brings the Drifting Cowboys to the edge of the Pacific.  "Thatís How We Do It in L.A." sports a jug-band swagger, complete with a drum-kit version of washboard percussion and a guitar that sounds like a kazoo.

Most of Buckinghamís hat tips go directly to the Beach Boys and the Beatles.  "Bwana" uses the bass line from "I want to Hold Your Hand" (hence the title?) and keyboards related to "Surfiní Safari." "Trouble," with its steady quarter-note rhythms, zither hook and air of wistful autism, is Brian Wilson to the core.  Throughout the album, Buckinghamís vocal harmonies are inspired by the Beach Boys songbook - he seems to have all of their ranges in his voice - while some of the mixes, like the left and right drum fills in "Mary Lee Jones," echo the goofy stereo of early Beatles records.

Then again, the last thing Lindsey Buckingham needs to borrow is goofiness.  Since Buckinghamís idea of drumming and Dashutís sound are fervently unconventional, the homemade arrangements are eccentric from the bottom up: every cut has a pinch of skiffle.  Above that, the artist builds airy vocal chorales and laceworks of guitar - pure confection - except that every so often a track runs wild and gets derailed.  For most of "Mary Lee Jones," Buckingham sustains a single guitar note at the center of the harmony.  Suddenly, this note blasts into fuzzed-out blues licks, like a Maserati pulling loose from a snowdrift.  The singer sobs histrionically at the end of "Iíll Tell You Now" (after, incidentally, not telling us anything) and does his finest Frankenstein shtick in the middle of "Johnny Stew," which is "World Turning" on its side.  Probably only Buckingham and Dashut know what else is buried in the mix.

These guys arenít just farting around, though they donít seem to mind if they do.  Each slapstick overdub is a reminder that pop is a confection, that the innocence is phony - enjoy the hooks but donít kid yourself.  Buckingham has a much fun popping the bubble as he does filling it full of wind.  On side one of "Law and Order," he acts like Nick Lowe or the Barry Manilow of "Copacabana," couching his skepticism in smiley vocals and lyrics that merely hint at mayhem.  In "Bwana," he sings the line "We all have our demons" in falsetto, while "Mary Lee Jones" is about her miserable "final days" (suicide?), though youíd never guess it from the starís one-man-Jordan-aires backups.  Buckingham drops the mask a little more on side two, which opens with a Fifties torch-style rendition of Kurt Weill and Maxwell Andersonís "September Song."  With "Shadow of the West," he becomes absolutely direct.  "Shadow of the West" lets you suspend all disbelief as cumulus-cloud harmonies float above the melody, only to clarify Buckinghamís message: "More and more, I feel less and less."

Still, Buckingham hardly wants us to feel sorry for him.  The rest of the side is nasty comedy - are the background vocals in "Thatís How We Do It in L.A." really saying, "fucked up"? - until the final number. "Satisfied Mind" addresses but canít answer the question Buckingham expects us to ask: who cares about a rich manís hobby?  The old-timers who wrote the tune thought that a "satisfied mind" was better than any riches, and Buckingham proves he was once a folkie as he sings the song straight, with easy nasal harmonies.  There it sits, the send-off on an LP of pop contrivances.  But Lindsey Buckingham knows we donít have to believe it for a second.

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for sending it to us.


Date: 1981-11-26         Number of views: 3026

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