You keep waiting for Lindsey Buckingham, the old rebel, to soften into middle-aged acceptance, to conform. This isn’t that record. Credit Buckingham for never trading true emotion for sentiment. Seeds We Sow is as hard eyed as it is musically ambitious — beginning with its abruptly confessional album-opening title track.
“In Our Own Time” follows, as Buckingham reminisces about a lost love amidst an almost mathematical cascade. “This time I think she’s gone for good,” Buckingham says, then adds: “But I never really know.” Then all of the implications, all of those hurt feelings, all of the still-burning confusion, are echoed in his frenetic, contradictory chording. It’s a triumphal marrying of words and music, and not the last one.
“Illumination,” with a smack-you-around rhythm and smart lyricism, becomes the first echo of his familiar Fleetwood Mac-era mixture of angular pop musicality and the angry admonition. That makes the initially prosaic, old-timey texture of “That’s The Way Love Goes” all the more devastatingly effective. Just when Buckingham has lulled you into a sense of safe melancholy, however, he rips off a series of brick-loosening riffs. Love can be like that too, all soft and safe, then heart-splashingly, completely over.
Buckingham, awake in the middle of the night chasing regrets, drags us across a desolate dreamscape on the echo-laden, pulsing “Stars Are Crazy.” It’s a song of hollow majesty. Then “When She Comes Down” bursts out, powered by a sky-high multi-tracked vocal that runs completely counter to its crepuscule subject matter. Back in their prime, this track probably would have been swiped for a new Fleetwood Mac album. Just like that, though, Buckingham begins banjoing through “Rock Away Blind,” a staggering lament. Those days, he seems to be saying, are gone.
And maybe that’s a good thing. After all, his old band might have struggled with the complexity of “One Take” – a tune that seems to set up as a moment of repentance, with somebody answering for whatever missteps happened along the way. Not in Buckingham’s hands. Looping a half dozen singing Lindseys over a torrent of strangely metallic blues licks, he doesn’t sound sorry — not at all — on this brutally frank rocker.
So, yeah, Seeds We Sow, due on Sept. 6, certainly has its dark moments, culminating with the Rolling Stones album cut “She Smiled Sweetly.” Sung in an after-midnight whisper, the track doesn’t even try to sort out the mysteries of life, much less of women. Yet, there is a lasting transformative quality to tracks like “Gone Too Far,” this clanking piece of pop confection; and “End of Time,” a surprisingly upbeat moment of ambivalence that again belies its title. Taken together, they end up imbuing this project with a pleasing thematic rhythm, as Buckingham ultimately finds purchase somewhere between striving for community and feeling his oats.
Makes sense. Buckingham, for all of the things he rejects, for all of the things that piss him off and make him play the guitar in a bloody-fingered rage, was never about nothingness. Buckingham’s music, in a move that belied his era, didn’t settle for cheap thrills, quick answers — or something so obvious and easy as nihilism.
And, lucky for us, it still doesn’t.