Album Review: ‘Tusk’ By Fleetwood Mac
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The history of Fleetwood Mac sets them apart from all of their contemporaries. When Fleetwood Mac first emerged in the late ‘60s, they sounded nothing like the band that would radically redraw the mainstream music template in the ‘70s.
On New Year’s Eve 1974, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac, ushering in a year of transformation. This reorganization began with the pair’s self-titled 1975 album, which featured the international breakthrough hits “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” showcasing Nicks’ lyrical skills.
Although Fleetwood Mac signaled a change in the band’s trajectory, it was the raging and the extremely-popular Rumours (1977) album that proved to be the band’s gateway to commercial success. However, these big bucks don’t necessarily mean that it’s the best album there is; in fact, there’s a strong contender in Fleetwood Mac’s catalog that could be considered to be the greatest of all: their subsequent album, Tusk (1979).
Some listeners, maybe anticipating a sequel to Rumours, have found Tusk to be excessive and a tad pretentious. In 1978, Buckingham indicated his wish to move Fleetwood Mac away from their pop-leaning sound and toward a sound that was more innovative and diversified. This desire came at a time when expectations were riding high. Buckingham was given cautious permission by his bandmates to assume creative control of a significant portion of the material; before he would share his ideas with the band during recording sessions, he would work on the new material by himself at home.
Tusk was clearly impacted by Buckingham’s preoccupation with the burgeoning post-punk scene. This influence may be heard most clearly in songs like “Not That Funny” which both include heavily plucked and distorted guitar passages. However, you can also hear this influence in some of the album’s softer pieces.
“The whole impulse was to make sure that you didn’t succumb to the external expectations,” Buckingham said in an interview via Forbes. “That begin to sort of close in around you in terms of commerce from the label or in terms of just the set of preconceptions that people have about you that they want you to sort of formulize and stick to for the rest of your life, which is tantamount to painting yourself into a corner creatively.”
Tusk didn’t do as well commercially as Rumours did, but it was more creatively adventurous while still maintaining the band’s aesthetic integrity. The music is completely entertaining, and one can applaud Buckingham’s daring in widening the horizon for Fleetwood Mac. So thank you, Fleetwood Mac, especially Lindsey Buckingham, for giving us one of the greatest albums known by man.