The four songs on the new Fleetwood Mac EP — which the legendary pop-rock outfit put up for sale on iTunes last month with little warning — arrive steeped in echoes of the past, in at least one case quite literally: "Without You," a strummy acoustic number overlaid with harmony vocals by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, reportedly dates to sessions for the singers' 1973 album as a long-haired vocal duo deeply opposed to shirts.
But the other tunes on "Extended Play," newly composed by Buckingham and co-produced by him and L.A. studio pro Mitchell Froom, feel no less rooted in earlier iterations of this on-again/off-again institution.
"Miss Fantasy" has some of the folky back-porch guitar action of "Never Going Back Again," while the stripped-down "It Takes Time" could be Buckingham's version of Christine McVie's big piano ballad, "Songbird." And opener "Sad Angel" shimmers with the glossy textures of 1987's "Tango in the Night." (Incidentally, if you want to get a sense of Fleetwood Mac's enduring influence on synthed-up young rock acts like Phoenix, go straight to "Tango" — it looms larger these days than the vaunted "Rumours" does.)
Nothing about this self-reference surprises, of course, especially given that Fleetwood Mac is amid a giant arena tour that will bring the band to the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday and Anaheim's Honda Center on May 28. Old hits are what the members are playing onstage — "Don't Stop," "Dreams," "Go Your Own Way," "Silver Springs" — so old hits are what the members are hearing in their heads.
And yet Fleetwood Mac's first studio output since "Say You Will" in 2003 doesn't sound stale or overworked; indeed, the songs have an impressive crispness that makes their familiarity seem less like evidence of a tapped creative supply than like proof that this is simply the kind of music Fleetwood Mac writes.
"I remember you," Buckingham sings over and over again near the end of "Miss Fantasy," and he might be addressing his own melody. But it's a good one. You'll remember it too.
— Mikael Wood
"In the Flat Field"
Back in March, Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy was nicked on a DUI charge in Glendale, where he allegedly hit a vehicle, fled police on foot and was eventually apprehended with a bag of what police described as methamphetamine in his car. It seems the famed goth-rocker's night-life regimen is even darker then we thought.
It's a shame, for many reasons, because this really should be a landmark moment for Murphy and Bauhaus. The estimable English imprint 4AD just reissued the band's classic 1980 album "In the Flat Field" (along with 1981's "Mask"), and its peals of atonal guitar noise and Murphy's possessed wails have never sounded more contemporary.
Bauhaus might be best known for its cackling single "Bela Lugosi's Dead," which set the template for an entire goth culture. But in hindsight, the band's debut, "Flat Field," showed just how much more it was capable of, like the razor-cut rockabilly lines of "Dive" and the steely tension of "A God in an Alcove." On "Saint Vitus Dance" Murphy's voice dances with the devil, and with Jerry Lee Lewis' jitter.
Without "Flat Field," sinister and stylish bands like Savages might have gone on to make music brimming with hope and optimism. We're holding onto a bit of the latter that Murphy can put his recent unpleasantries behind him for his 35th-anniversary show of all classic Bauhaus material July 27 at the Fonda Theatre.
— August Brown