One Track Mind: Peter Buck, "10 Million B.C." (2012)

It’s not like Peter Buck hasn’t been busy. In fact, he’s kinda been everywhere since R.E.M. split, participating in a number of side projects including the Minus 5 and the Baseball Project.

What we haven’t heard is new music under Buck’s own name — until now. “10 Million B.C.” caroms out with a grimy, swamp-soaked riff, and a vocal that sounds like it’s being croaked from the bottom of a jon boat, then opens up into a sun-streaked la-la-la chorus before brilliantly returning to that bulldog bark. The track does a brilliant job of sewing in key moments from his tenure in R.E.M. (a smidge of jangle pop, a dollop of chugging fuzz-covered guitar) with something entirely new.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Former R.E.M. sideman Peter Holsapple talks about his emotional reaction to the band's split, as well as key moments with the dB's.]

It’s been rightly compared to the music of seminal punkabilly pioneers Cramps — who once shared a label with R.E.M. — but “10 Million BC” also boasts the same deranged, scuzzball darkness that propels Tom Waits’ best sides, and that’s where its real charm lies. Buck has, within the space of these three minutes, confirmed that he won’t simply be sticking a toe in the experimental waters of a solo career: He’s cannonballing in.

Good news, indeed, for ravenous fans who learned way back in March that Buck was at work on a solo album with former R.E.M. sessions and touring guitarist Scott McCaughey, a bandmate of Buck’s in Minus 5, the Baseball Project, and Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3. “10 Million BC” premiered on WFMU out of New Jersey, when Steve Wynn — former frontman of Dream Syndicate and another Buck collaborator — played it as a guest DJ. Check it out below …

Over his 31 years with the band, Buck had only sung on one R.E.M. song, and it’s fairly obscure: “I Walked With a Zombie,” which appeared on 1990′s Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, a Roky Erickson tribute album. Buck’s forthcoming project would be the initial solo album from R.E.M., which split last September after 15 albums. Former frontman Michael Stipe has reportedly decided to focus more on sculpture and photography, calling a recording away from R.E.M. “unfathomable” last fall. Bassist Mike Mills has also made no solo announcements (though he has appeared with Buck in the Baseball Project), while original drummer Bill Berry has retired.

Still unknown is the title for Buck’s album, when it would be released — or whether it will even appear digitally. Wynn indicated that it could be released in a vinyl-only format.

Talk about “10 Million BC”!

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.