Thursday, 21 August 2008

The New... Fleetwood Mac

Cif is the new Jif. Simon Pegg is the new James Doohan. But what about music? Which bands are rising up to take over the musical direction, style, and tone of previous, classic bands who have since split up or retired? In this occasional series, we look at new bands who are proudly continuing the musical traditions started previously by other acts.

The Old…

Fleetwood Mac

A slightly bluesy, slightly country band from America, Fleetwood Mac was made into a proper band by the arrival of Stevie Nicks to the fold. Whilst the band was filled with different people who did the singing, it was Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie who gave us all the best musical moments. Both have strong, deep voices that can rise and fall in a heartbeat, whilst possessing so much character you have to stand back from the speakers to take it all in. The entire character of the band is what makes them stand out so strongly amongst all the other bands from the 70’s

They moved from slightly conventional sounding music to more and more experimental stuff as they went on as a band, due in no small part to their heavy drug lifestyles. But whenever they started wandering off in odd musical directions, like the title track of their album “Tusk”, the band always offset the weirdness with pop songs that instantly sounded like classics as soon as you heard them. It seemed like the band could effortlessly crack out pop songs for as long as they wanted, which not many other band s have ever managed to achieve. Of course, with Fleetwood Mac having this ability, they then chose to try and rebel against it by making songs that deliberately only work on album.

Their albums gained as a result. Their music sounds decent on a singles collection, but you can hear on their best-of the songs slowly growing more and more typical, more obvious, more thrown out. They stopped paying attention to making songs that worked as snappy singles, and instead focused on making their albums cohesive and raw and experimental. There is a wealth of material out there for anyone who wants to try out Fleetwood Mac, and if you do go out there and try it after only knowing the singles, you’re going to be surprised by the depth and variety to their music.

Fleetwood Mac are easily one of the best bands to come out of America. It was uniquely American style of music that has yet to be equalled by any band: hazy, country music with a twang and easy-going charm. No matter the subject of their songs, there is a feel-good factor at work with Fleetwood Mac that instantaneously warms you to them. While the men play the guitars, the women sing their songs, and everyone goes home happy. They were a tremendous band, and even now their music is captivating.

The New…

Rilo Kiley

This LA-based band have big shoes to step into, but are more than capable of tapdancing in them. Again, the music centres around a female voice: this time the charged power of Jenny Lewis, a tiny redhead with enough power in her singing to charm a village of ferocious cavemen. Jenny Lewis is the powerhouse that drives Rilo Kiley forward with their music, and although they started out with a slightly indistinct country-indie rock sound, their music has developed at a speed of knots over the years. In a reversal of Fleetwood Mac’s musical direction, Rilo Kiley started out experimentally. Their first two albums veer all over the musical map, from powerhouse rock to gentle country sounds.

After those, though, the band started to fight their own internal conflict, in the shape of a breakup. Just like with the Mac, the bandmates of Rilo Kiley were dating. Jenny was dating Blake Sennett, in this case, the also quite short guitarist of the band. They split up after the second album was made, and their fighting led the other members of the band to worry about their future. They pulled together, though, and continued on in a stronger shape than ever. The band concentrated more on making their music accessible, so that third album “More Adventurous” sounded just like… a Fleetwood Mac album. An offcut of country music based around the full, rounded sound of Lewis’s voice, the album resoundingly sounds like the sort of music Fleetwood Mac would have started making if their creative peak had lasted longer.

The twang is distinctively there in the music, the songs have the same low-key, laid-back charm that Fleetwood Mac specialised in, and with Jenny Lewis the band certainly have a frontwoman capable of the charisma that Stevie Nicks, for example, possesses. Yet the band continued on past this, forming a more poppy edge in the fourth album that reminds you of a Fleetwood Mac best-of album. The music on Under The Blacklight was one pop song after another, of which more than half had a resounding feel of ‘instant classic. The soft, smooth sounds of ‘Give A Little Love’, for example, is the best song Fleetwood Mac never wrote. A great band with a constantly adapting sound, Rilo Kiley have the grassroots Californication that any good country band has, but at the same time polishes it and tries to change it into something else entirely. If there is one band capable of taking over the void left in music after Fleetwood Mac died down as a collective, it is Rilo Kiley.

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