You kind of have to wonder how long the band’s singer/songwriters are going to sing and song-write about the same subject matter before it becomes a point of diminishing returns. Trust me, I get it: Stevie Nicks is busy having the best sex of her life, Lindsey Buckingham is heartbroken because he’s no longer having the best sex of his life, Christine McVie hands in love songs for single adults to sit in rocking chairs and listen to while they think about the best sex they’ve never had. As expected, the lyrics have regressed: compare “I’m out of my head / And it’s only over you” with “I’m over my head / But it sure feels nice” from seven years prior, while “Book of Love”’s chorus manages to be downright embarrassing, the rhyme for rhyme’s sake of the chorused “Tell me who wrote the book of love / Was it someone from above? / Surely He must know all the rules / Knowledge not meant for fools” and worse, the recycling for the verse, “Someone in heaven above / Show me how to love.” But it’s not as bad as I, or the sheer fact that “it’s not Rumours by a band only famous for making Rumours” makes it seem. Actually, you could fileMirage under underrated. The dreaded eighties production hasn’t hit yet, mostly because the band is too self-conscious in remakingRumours after the relatively commercial failure of Tusk (ie. I think every song here has a guitar solo), and thus, Mirage sounds seventies if nothing else. Anyway, the good stuff:
1. The album cover. Best Fleetwood Mac cover there ever was, not that there’s much to compete with.
2. The bass of “Love in Store.” It always amazes me that a band that’s so often labeled “soft rock” knew what the volume knob on the amp for the bass guitar did better than any hard rock band.
3. In my praise of Tusk, I wrote that Lindsey Buckingham was “apparently the only member of the band that was aware of music outside of the band’s own.” Unfortunately, he decides not to try for punk or new wave on Mirage, but the way he yells the first half of each line in the chorus of “Book of Love,”—possibly David Bowie’sScary Monsters (And Super Creeps) inspired—is enough to make you ignore the lyrics. The backing vocals are unnecessary, though.
4. Meanwhile, his singing on “Empire State” has this anemic-anthemic quality to it. I say “anemic,” because he whispers the vocals throughout, but still manages to have just as much bite as he did on “Go Your Own Way.” Meanwhile, the way the keyboard, bass, and acoustic guitar (that sounds like it’s being strummed behind the nut of the guitar) build up and up before the electric guitar solo is an obvious attempt to recreate the magic of “The Chain.” It comes close. Also, the way the male-female vocals are set up here predate that of Frank Black-Kim Deal’s by a good five years.
5. ”Oh Diane” is one of the catchier Elvis Presley songs if Elvis Presley had a higher pitched voice.
6. “Gypsy” boasts a vocals melody that’s just as catchy as “Sara,” “Dreams” and “Rhiannon,” and the simple arpeggiated acoustic riff lets it stand out more. Elsewhere, I don’t think keyboards have ever sounded so much like strings before.
7. The melodic arch of “Only Over You”‘s hook over gentle pings that leads us into beautiful backing vocals. Unfortunately, the verses aren’t much to shout about. And every time the first guitar solo appears (see the 2:26 mark), I keep getting tricked into thinking it’s going to launch into one of epic proportions a la “The Chain” (they begin the same way), but it just leads us into a quick drum rustle instead and drops us where we started.
8. The vocals of “Eyes of the World” are a little too conscious of a recreation of “Tusk” for my tastes, but the instrumental is damn catchy.
9. ”Hold Me” is a bit too obvious for my tastes. It’s like the band needed a straight-forward single to represent the album so they throw everything everyone would want in a straight-forward single—melodic hooks, harmonic hooks, guitar solo, sprinkled piano, Mick Fleetwood does something noticeable for once, etc. In my eyes, the single best part of “Hold Me” is what the acoustic guitar is doing, especially when it counterpoints with the electric guitar solo.
10. Again, the most interesting part of “Wish You Were Here”—sadly not a cover of Pink Floyd’s song, because I imagine these guys would’ve done it much better—is the acoustic guitar, this time stimulating “rain on my window” (see the 1:23 mark).
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The rest is good background music. The only ones left that made any sort of impression is “Can’t Go Back,” but that one is nothing more than an early Beatles song that couldn’t make it as a single with second-rate “Second Hand News”-style percussion. But I count 4 good songs and a handful of good ones and that’s more than most Fleetwood Mac albums that didn’t come out in 1975-1979.