Washington Post, September 16, 1984

Lindsey Buckingham's Unusual Mix

by Geoffrey Himes

Lindsey Buckingham's chief influence has always been Brian Wilson, but at the same time, he has often expressed an admiration for David Byrne and the Talking Heads. How could he possibly reconcile the Beach Boys' pastoral harmonies with such nervous, fractured, punk-funk? That question is answered brilliantly on Buckingham's second solo album, "Go Insane" (Elektra 60363-1).

For one thing, the Beach Boys and the Talking Heads have more in common than one would at first suspect. Both Wilson and Byrne are fascinated with the qualities of sound; Wilson's experiments with incorporating nonmusical sounds into music on 1966's "Pet Sounds" and 1967's "Smiley Smile" were echoed by Byrne's similar experiments on the Heads' 1979 "Fear of Music" and his solo projects. Both Wilson and Byrne delight in taking apart traditional song arrangements and reassembling them in odd ways.

Buckingham shares their curiosity and experimental nature. His new album, in fact, came out of experiments with sounds and structures in his own garage studio. When he happened upon something original enough to pique his interest, he built it into a song for the new album.

All of Buckingham's songs deal with failure and breakdown in pursuit of that golden day on the beach that Wilson promised. On his first solo album, Buckingham says, "The setting of the sun scares me to death." On his new album's most radical piece, "Play in the Rain," he asks if it's possible to play when the sun is gone. Jagged third-world strings, shattering glass, party noisemakers, crashing shelves and echoed vocals all reinforce this feeling of fear and loneliness.

The same sentiments are expressed in a more accessible from on the first single, the title tune. "I lost my power in this world," Buckingham sings, "So I go insane." The punchy mid-tempo rhythm, the catchy guitar riff, the melody hook and the chorus harmonies all make this reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, even if there are some odd effects in the background and an unsettling theme in the lyrics.

The second single is likely to be "Slow Dancing," another splendid bit of pop invention. A music box keyboard figure is poised against a fractured funk bottom; Buckingham's nervous, new wave vocals on the verses give way to glorious harmonies on the choruses. He deals with recovery from breakdown on "Loving Cup," the song most obviously influenced by the Talking Heads. Stop-and-go rhythms, buzzing guitars, third-world percussion and staccato vocals set up this lyric progression: "We fall down. We get hurt. He get up and take a drink from the loving cup."

"Bang the Drum" begins with found sounds and ends with an extended tag of the richest Beach Boys harmonies of the '80s. This leads into "D.W. Suite," a nearly seven-minute, three-part tribute to Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson, who drowned last December. Incorporating traditional folk melodies into studio experiments, it becomes a heartfelt eulogy for a musical hero who never quite coped with the breakdowns on the road to utopia.

With guidance from Cars' producer Roy Thomas Baker and with assistance from engineer Gordon Fordyce, Buckingham did almost everything himself: wrote all the songs, played all the instruments, sang all the vocal parts and recorded it in his garage and at the Beach Boys' old haunt, Cherokee Studios. With this, one of the year's best albums, Buckingham asserts himself as more than just a pop craftsman - as one of the most original forces in rock'n'roll today.

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.