Lindsey Buckingham – “Go Insane” (1984)

September 2, 2008 at 2:09 pm (Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham, Reviews & Articles)

Christopher Connelly’s review of Go Insane from the Aug. 30, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone

Lindsey Buckingham’s Tuneful Triumph

Fleetwood Mac’s Guitarist Sounds Like an Eighties Version of Brian Wilson

When many California-based musicians were taking the punk-New Wave movement as a personal affront, Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac was taking it as a challenge. From 1979’s Tusk on, this songwriter, singer and guitarist has struggled to combine the wildest possibilities of new music with the folk-fostered melodies that have marked his most commercially fruitful efforts. Go Insane is a triumphant culmination of this effort – the richest, most fascinatingly tuneful album of the year.
Buckingham’s strongest influence has always been Brian Wilson, the out-there but studio-savvy Beach Boy with an impeccable pop ear. Yet while Wilson’s music speaks with an airy, wouldn’t-it-be-nice optimism, Buckingham’s work reveals a slightly warped obsessiveness. He uses music the way Talking Heads’ David Byrne uses words: taking simple, even clichéd, constructions and tossing them together in unexpected combinations.
That potent, brainy mixture is further invigorated on Go Insane by a dollop of seething sexual passion. “I guess I had to prove I was someone hard to lose,” Buckingham chants before kicking into the dazzling, “I Want You,” perhaps his most nakedly emotional song to date. A gleeful keyboard hook explodes into an aural torrent: synthesizers, guitars and drums rage, as Buckingham furiously cries out his heart’s dichotomy: “I’m a bundle of joy, a pocketful of tears/Got enough of both to last all the years.”
Lyrically, Go Insane limns a painful breakup: “Hey little girl, leave the little drug alone,” he pleads in “I Must Go,” and similar strains of dark-etched longing appear throughout the record. But Buckingham’s words – although they are intriguingly unsettling – take a back seat to the parade of toe-tapping sound here. Even though he plays almost every instrument on the album, Buckingham avoids the cluttered, too-perfect sheen often associated with West Coast music. The rough edges are still there, and the overall sound has lightness that enhances the record’s emotional impact.
On that score, “Bang the Drum” is Go Insane’s finest achievement. Its ticktock, ethereally intoned verse drifts off into a gloriously cascading chorus and a bridge that’s thick with ear-pleasing harmonies, with a stinging guitar solo to boot. More of Buckingham’s axe work is on display in the uptempo “Loving Cup,” which fuses the snaky lines of “Gold Dust Woman” with the spare, threatening whomp of Tusk’s undiscovered treasure, “Not That Funny.”
Even the more commercially minded songs are infused with Buckingham’s newfound boldness. While his first solo album, Law and Order, featured the mild-mannered “Trouble,” Go Insane offers the Mark Lindsay-ish title song, all hard edges and pungent longing (“I call your name/She’s a lot like you”). Similarly, a whipcrack backbeat kicks “Slow Dancing” out of the living room and onto the dance floor where it belongs. Admittedly, the found-sound antics of the two-part “Play in the Rain” (glasses of water being poured, heels clip-clopping across a sidewalk) pale after a couple of listenings, though Buckingham’s sitarlike fretboard runs add some excitement.  But then there’s “D.W. Suite,” a three-part valediction to the late Dennis Wilson in which Buckingham really pulls out the stops: Laurie Anderson-style vocal effects, a harp interlude, a synthesized Ed Sullivan introduction, a Beach Boys-type chorus and a Scottish flute march. “D.W. Suite” may be pop’s most elaborate farewell, but its flashy eclecticism is reined in throughout by Buckingham’s keen rock & roll sense.
Artistically, Go Insane is a breakthrough album not just for the thirty-six-year-old Buckingham, but conceivably for rock & roll as well, representing as it does the most successful combination yet of hummable Seventies slick rock and Eighties avant-edge. If Lindsey Buckingham really is following in the footsteps of his idol, then Go Insane is his Pet Sounds:  possibly his least commercial work, but also his most daring and savory. 

Christopher Connelly

1 Comment

  1. Finding a place for Lindsey Buckingham « No Depression Archives said,

    […] is not to say that Buckingham is engaged in any act of nostalgia. Since 1984’s Go Insane, which was dense with the then-novel technology of sampling, Buckingham has never been shy about […]

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