RECORDS / The smug and the paranoid:
Lindsey Buckingham – Out of the Cradle (Mercury 512 658-2)
Glenn Frey – Strange Weather (MCA MCD10599)
Other strange coincidences link the two: both, for instance, work with a sole collaborator; and both choose to preface some of their songs with little instrumental preludes which serve as plinths, the better to gaze upon the ensuing artwork. Both, too, claim their current albums showcase their guitar work more than previous outings. But from there, the two diverge, their musical differences signalled by their widely differing characters.
Frey is an outdoors kinda guy, an all-skiing, all-golfing, home- run-hitting sports nut whose obsession with games has run to caddying on the PGA tour and appearing on sports programmes as a trivia buff. The view from his Colorado home is reassuringly straightforward, comprising routine social griping like ‘Love in the 21st Century’ (impersonal sex); tired old sex-as-food metaphors like ‘Delicious’; and escapist fantasies like ‘River of Dreams’. At its most aware, a song like ‘He Took Advantage (Blues for Ronald Reagan)’ begins as a standard lament for love betrayed, and ends with a conclusion specifically aimed at ol’ sleepyhead: ‘And now he’s walking away / He doesn’t care what we say / We weren’t too hard to deceive / We wanted so to believe’. At its least aware, ‘I’ve Got Mine’ is Frey’s ‘Another Day in Paradise’, a scold for the rich in a world marked by poverty, another case of blasting away at one’s own foot in the name of self- righteousness.
Buckingham, on the other hand, is a shy, reclusive type. Many of his songs deal with loneliness and paranoia, without making grand claims for themselves as lessons to set the world to rights. Musically, Out of the Cradle is more varied and interesting than Strange Weather (and the last Fleetwood Mac LP, come to that), ranging from the Chris Isaak- styled rock classicism of ‘Street of Dreams’ to the Latin pop of ‘Soul Drifter’, an almost too deliberate stab at a summer-holiday song. There’s even a lighter re-run of Buckingham’s ‘Big Love’ riff, for a song called ‘Doing What I Can’ – which is only fair do’s, seeing as the original was a solo piece generously donated to keep the Mac’s Tango in the Night afloat.
The dominant influence, though, is Brian Wilson, whose footprints are all over the album, from the aching ballad ‘All My Sorrows’ to the over-dubbed vocals of ‘Say We’ll Meet Again’, from the preoccupation with introvert tendencies to the photos of Lindsey in situ in the studio, a lonely boy finding succour through his toys. This is Buckingham’s Pet Sounds, and it very nearly lives up to it, too.