Fleetwood Mac - Tusk - Review
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critics' view

Few multi-million-selling albums, grounded so thoroughly within the MOR landscape, puzzle more than Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 double album Tusk. The stories of its reception are well known. After the wild success of Rumours, the five-piece, led by the songwriting trio of Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks, and completed by rhythm section John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, refused to rest on laurels – especially Buckingham, who’d been listening to post-punk and new wave, later telling Uncut that this new music had offered him “a little room to deprogram and reaffirm things – to retrieve my own style”.

The outcome was ten months in the studio, costs of around one million dollars, and an album that McVie herself once described as “very different, very Lindsey Buckingham”, and which Buckingham recently told critic Jen Boyles was “the most important album we made, but only because it drew a line in the sand that for me defined the way I still think today.” But painting it Buckingham’s baby (soon after its release, when it was clear it wouldn’t repeat the success of Rumours, it was referred to as ‘Lindsey’s folly’) does grave disservice to the group’s two other songwriters, who met Buckingham’s experiments with more subtle, yet no less effective, sideways steps.

On Tusk, McVie embraced an ambiguity that she never quite articulated before or since: the album’s opener, “Over & Over”, begins as though it’s suspended in mid-air, a music always in the process of becoming, while the song’s protagonist sketches out uncertain emotional territory. Nicks contributes the album’s most resonant, Mac-esque songs – several of her classics appear on Tusk, including the breathtaking “Sara” (which gains a few minutes of aquatic drift on the alternate version on Disc Three of this deluxe edition, more of which later), and one of her most epic melodramas, “Sisters Of The Moon”. But it’s fair to say the album’s legend rests on the wildness of Buckingham’s experiments, such as curiosities like the taut elastic snap of “The Ledge”, or the modular drum tattoos of “Tusk” – the album’s most experimental song, it was, tellingly, released as the lead single.

Tusk is strong stuff, surprisingly unyielding in its intrigue. As a document of a group responding to mega-success by both experimenting wildly, pushing the studio-as-instrument to places that usually only an Eno would go, and by introverting in response to Rumours’ interpersonal melodramas, it’s still a bristling, staggering listen.

Jon Dale
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Est. 2007, Uncut magazine, trademarked as UNCUT, is a monthly publication based in London. It is available across the English-speaking world, and focuses on music, but also includes film and books sections. "The spiritual home of great rock music. Classic interviews, in-depth new album reviews, essential news stories, live reviews, films, DVDs and much more."
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