Favorites: Tusk (1979)

tusk

It’s a well-established fact that double albums are rarely worth their weight in vinyl. The potential for unnecessary sprawl, like strip malls reaching their greasy appendages into the bucolic landscape, is too great for most bands to overcome. There are a few interesting exceptions which make it to the top of my list: The Beatles’ “White Album”, Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew”, Soft Machine’s “Third”, Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti”, Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ the Times”, and this, Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”, are some that first come to mind.

“Rumours”, this album’s antecedent, is one of the most commercially and critically successful albums ever released, and for good reason: it was the succinct home of eleven great songs. It also captured a love quadrangle falling beautifully apart at the seams. “Tusk” is the sound of a broken band doing whatever it desires, all while flying into the bzzzzzzing cosmos on the white horse. Which should’ve made it suck, but somehow Lindsey Buckingham corralled the creativity of his coked-out-of-their-craniums band mates and created an absolute masterpiece of idiosyncratic song-craft. For as many weird tangents as the album goes on, it still miraculously remains coherent. Much like the emotionally fragmented Beatles circa 1968, Fleetwood Mac managed to come through the dark tunnel of un-love with a set of great tunes. And hey! No “Wild Honey Pie” to be found here!

“Sisters of the Moon” is the band at the peak of what they did best: haunted, emotionally naked, and impeccably-arranged with an absolutely devastating Buckingham solo. “I Know I’m Not Wrong” (one of the most buoyant melodies ever penned by the band), “Never Forget”, “Over and Over”, “Sara”, “Storms” (one of Stevie Nicks’ best ballads), and “Tusk” are other personal favorites in an album full of them. “Tusk”, it should be acknowledged, is one of the absolute weirdest singles to ever reach the charts, built on a simple, but insistent African drum pattern, crazed background chants, chemically aided vocals, minimalist guitar patterns, and backing by the USC marching band.

Unlike the eccentrically dated and bloated “The Wall” (an album that I loved as a teen, but now find almost impossible to wade through in one go), “Tusk” has actually improved with age (there is a reason so many good bands name-check the Mac these days) and is strangely free of the pomp and circumference of so much Big Rock of the ‘70s. There isn’t a single weak track and it’s an absolute blast to listen to from start to finish. If you’ve never given “Tusk” a chance, I have to urge you to do so. Like, now. Hyperbolically-speaking, this is a double-stuffed treat that doesn’t require being a gourmand to swallow.

Also, Camper Van Beethoven recorded a track-for-track remake of this album that’s pretty fun in an amateurish, ramshackle way. And the “Never Forget (Cut Copy Lifelike Remix)” turns an already life-affirming song into an absolutely transcendent stars-are-out-tonight triumph. A coke classic meets a new coke anthem hip enough for your day-glo hoodies, ecstasy rave-ups and quasi-ironic glo-sticks.

“Tusk”:

“Sisters of the Moon”:

Portion of the “Tusk” documentary:

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