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On Milwaukee Review Under the Skin

By Bill Zaferos

It’s been 14 years since Lindsey Buckingham released his last album, “Out of the Cradle.”

Perhaps if he had spent another year working on his new one, the aptly named “Under the Skin,” he might have come up with a more coherent, listenable work.

It’s not that it’s awful, it’s just that there’s no there there. The disc lacks cohesiveness and is ultimately just plain boring. There’s not even one number that gets under your skin, in a good way at least.

Listening to “Under the Skin” it’s hard to believe Buckingham was behind the distinctive guitar sound of Fleetwood Mac’s great hits, and harder to believe he wrote “Go Your Own Way” or even the catchy “Trouble” from his 1981 “Law and Order” album. Not even something as lovely as “Soul Drifter” from his last album, “Out of the Cradle,” makes an appearance on this one.

“Under the Skin” is just a ponderous piece of fluff with whispering vocals and goofball lyrics that doesn’t hold up well under repeated listens.

For example, catch these lyrics to the first tedious cut, “Not Too Late:” “Reading the paper/saw a review/said I was a visionary/but nobody knew/Now that’s been a problem/feeling unseen/just like I’m living somebody’s dream.” Visionary? Nothing on “Under the Skin” indicates much vision.

And “unseen”? Lindsey Buckingham? Please. He’s not exactly a guy who’s been laboring in obscurity, although “Under the Skin” may at least relegate him further into irrelevance unless he re-unites with his Mac mates again. Fast.

Put the lyrics of “Not Too Late” over an unending arpeggio and you have a formless mishmash that shows off Buckingham’s guitar skills but does little for the listener. And this is the guy who performed the beautiful lead on Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy.”

Or take the second track, “I Am Waiting,” where Buckingham double tracks his voice over the words, “I am waiting, oh yeah, oh yeah, I am waiting, oh yeah” followed by “you can’t hold out oh yeah oh yeah” repeated and then followed by “you can’t hold out you can’t hold out oh yeah oh yeah,” also repeated and followed by some metaphor about a winter storm and more repetitions about being fast or slow.

And when he starts singing, well it’s not so much singing as it is breathing, about gypsy girls in derelict buildings making beds out of rain and tears on “To Try for the Sun,” well, it’s hard not to snicker. There’s a little bit of melody in the underlying guitar, but it’s hard to get past the faux poetry in this apparent tale of innocent love.

OK, so maybe “Castaway Dreams” is sweetly tuneful, but lyrics like “holy light visionary sight there’s been a change in plans” just make it seem dopey. (By the way, there’s that visionary word again.)

While no one can read Buckingham’s mind, “Under the Skin” seems an attempt at increasing Buckingham’s reputation as a “serious” musician. Well, no one ever doubted that. But serious doesn’t mean dull, and that’s what “Under the Skin” is. It’s one thing to challenge listeners, to attempt new styles, to stretch beyond the pop sensibility. But it’s another thing altogether to put people to sleep. The only challenge with “Under the Skin” is playing it past the fifth of 11 cuts.

Ultimately, “Under the Skin” is a throwaway; something that only the most devoted fans will appreciate. It may break Hootie and the Blowfish’s record for most copies in resale CD bins, but that’s assuming anyone had the misfortune of buying it in the first place.

Date: 2006-10-15         Number of views: 1218

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