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6 February 2015

Fleetwood Mac - 'Tusk' (Warner Brothers)

What do we say about Tusk, now? For years it was mentioned by people like Byron Coley as a masterpiece, which I always figured was a joke or some sort of needless contrarianism; in those times of fear I stayed away and thus missed out on really absorbing this into my formative years. At some point curiosity took over, and its ubiquity in charity shops and secondhand stores means I eventually took the gamble (apparently risking $4, if this is my original price sticker). And then there was this gradual period where Tusk started becoming incredibly fashionable among my music-obsessed friends, as we finally learned to eschew the punk orthodoxy and listen for ourselves. Perhaps, initially with some degree of irony (though a variable amount, depending on the person). Hey, I actually liked this, I discovered; it's unsurprising as I love great pop music and fucked-up pop music, which Tusk is both; I found that the manic/ragged/experimental quality that made this so talked-about was really there. So now I would definitively say yes, Tusk is a great album, with surprisingly little filler given its length (I can only really count 'Never Make Me Cry' as such, as I'm sure many people would argue for its merits). The hooks are catchy, the production somehow both cold and intimate, and it contains a disjointed collection of songs that range from angry to disconnected and druggy. But most importantly, it was the followup to the most successful pop record of all-time, and thus it's 'edgy' qualities attain more sharpness in comparison. So yes, we may occasionally overrate it, but that's cause there will probably never be anything like this again. This isn't like Radiohead making Kid A and confounding their alterna-rock fans, or Lou Reed's obvious fuck-yous; instead, it's experimental precisely because its not, if that makes any sense. Tusk is a band who became so big that they no longer had to listen to anyone telling them what to do, and it turns out their inner path was a pretty righteous one anyway, but the pressures of stardom and interpersonal relationship fallouts inject so much conflict into this that it never quite lifts off cohesively. But unlike most sprawling messes, there's enough genius here and perhaps the external context of their previous success infuses a certain swagger into it all. If you told me that none of the three songwriters played on each other's tracks, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised; Lindsay Buckingham's tracks sound as fucked-up and home-recorded as most of McCartney II and I suspect he wanted to be nowhere near Stevie Nicks at this time. The fact that the title track was the biggest hit on the whole album is fairly incredible, since it's by far the most demented song. If you turn it up loud - and you should - you can hear all of these buried, twisted layers of gibberish vocals behind the marching band, sounding a bit like an anachronistic guest appearance by Dylan Nyoukis's Blood Stereo (actually, it kinda sounds like Animal Collective). Even the idea to lead off the record with 'Over & Over' - a great song, but hardly a side 1, track 1 - feels like a brick in the wall of perversity. Over four million people bought this record, and you can find it for pennies now (unless you live in Europe, where I regularly see it priced over 25€). As much as I'm a massive Camper Van Beethoven fan, their full-scale covering of the whole album never resonated too much with me beyond being a mere novelty. There's probably a whole bunch of people who have never delved deep into Tusk and I'm actually jealous that you get that feeling of discovery and fascination that I once had. This is one of the best arguments for cocaine use ever committed to vinyl.

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