More than most bands, Fleetwood Mac evince complex, unresolved feelings. On the one hand they’re the ultimate mainstream soft-rock dinosaur, past masters of glossy emotions and overcooked arrangements. On the other hand…
On the other hand what, exactly? It’s not like Fleetwood Mac are Abba?So Uncool They’re Cool. But nor have Fleetwood Mac ever been So Cool They’re Uncool…if you know what I mean. So what are they, and why does a goodly percentage of their music stand up after decades? I guess because a) witchy woman Stevie Nicks has the voice of a petulant siren; b) studio geek Lindsey Buckingham still wants to be Brian Wilson; and c) Fleetwood Mac were and are truly a band for boys and girls. Good things all.
So here they come again, in a post-post-punk, hip hop-dominated universe, keen to make meaningful music. And there’s a historical parallel here: just as 1979’s ‘brave, off-the-wall’ double album Tusk followed 1977’s stratosphere-busting Rumours, so the almost-double CD Say You Will follows the play-safe ‘live greatest hits’ thing that was 1997’s The Dance.
The funny thing is that Tusk, when you revisit it, doesn’t sound off the wall at all. Which makes Say You Will all the more out-there as mainstream rock product. Next to Tusk, indeed, this 18-track opus is a box of All-Sorts replete with countless different colours and moods.
As one would expect, there’s a slew of those Stevie Nicks songs that are essentially narcissistic hymns to, well, Stevie Nicks. One of them is called “Silver Girl”, no less. Another, “Illume”, is a bongo-driven meditation on life post-9/11 and boasts the priceless line, “I am a cliff dweller from the old school”. Gotta love the woman: on the closing “Goodbye Baby” she sounds like Kate Bush spliced with Victoria Williams.
Then there are Lindsey’s songs, some of which date back to the solo ‘project’ that should have come out after his 1992 opus Out Of The Cradle. What makes Say You Will really great are Lindsey tracks like “Red Rover”, “Come” and “Say Goodbye”. The heady melodicism and hyper-syncopation of “Rover” are intoxicating. The shimmering “Say Goodbye”?all dappled guitars and whispered vocals?suggests Lindsey has been listening to modern-day troubadours like Elliott Smith.
The album peaks somewhere in the middle, with “Rover” followed by the effortlessly shiny Steviepop of the title track and then by first single “Peace Keeper”, a true Bucks/Nicks joint effort. Both pack killer choruses, as insidiously sweet-sad as vintage Mac classics from “Silver Springs” to “Gypsy”. Nicks’ “Running Through The Garden” is early-’80s hippie power pop, with a layered keyboard hook and chugging noo wave guitar.
For obvious reasons the only flavour missing on Say You Will is the departed Christine’s perfect Tango In The Night bop-pop, making the album more Buckingham-Nicks Redux than anything else. (You can hear Chrissie, though, on the moody, thumping “Murrow”.) That’s OK, because there’s so much here to get one’s teeth into.
Tusk this isn’t, but Tusk it doesn’t need to be. In an age of off-the-shelf Linda Perry pop, the Mac keep the mainstream interesting. Say you’ll give it a spin.