Extended Play – EP
Though you could argue it’s phoned in by the title alone, I really like this four-track EP by Fleetwood Mac, the band’s first release in a decade and their second set of recordings sans Christine McVie. Once again her presence is missed – because it’s now just The Stevie and Lindsey Show and her counterpoint was (always) crucial.
Where Say You Will, the band’s last album, was far too long (some 75 minutes) Extended Play is probably just a bit too short – six tracks might have been nice. But it’s a move I applaud. For two (crucial) reasons. Firstly, Fleetwood Mac is a hits-act, running the nostalgia circuit, giving its fans what they want, delivering shit-hot performances, still white-hot with Lindsey’s guitar prowess front and centre, that oh-so-capable rhythm section, Nicks still playing the twirling white-witch bogan-fantasy to the hilt and – yes – The Stevie and Lindsey Show is a big part of the sound and look and story of the band’s tours – as it has been since 1975 (with just a slight break). So fans want to hear the hits and a new album would be a waste of time but a new EP allows them a fan-souvenir and a chance for the band to slip in just a wee bit of new material. A nice touch, I say.
But the other great reason for a four-track EP at this stage in their career – far more important, I say – is this idea of simply offering all you have to say at any one moment and nothing more. Or, put another way, offer up your best work – avoid the filler. So Fleetwood Mac only has four songs they want to share right now. So be it. See reason one above – no one is going to a Fleetwood Mac show for the new material.
I don’t see this move of releasing an EP as misguided, I think it’s smart that a band like Fleetwood Mac releases an EP over an album; that they’ve done so at this stage in their career pleases me. More bands should be releasing just the good material.
So, all that said, is the material on the EP good enough?
For the most part, yes. And – it has to be said – thanks to Lindsey. Three of the four songs are from Buckingham, who really has been doing the heavy-lifting since Tusk. And – in the decade since Say You Will – he’s the Mac member that’s offered the most outside of the band; his solo albums a grand showcase for his skills; each album offering something new, a fresh angle. The other song is one that Buckingham had a hand in way back; has been resurrected.
So, opener, Sad Angel is the sort of immaculate pop song Buckingham has been scrubbing since his first solo album and in the way the riff dissolves into the hook it bears some resemblance to his great solo track Trouble. It’s a strong new addition to the Mac cannon.
Without You is a re-recording of a pre-Mac Buckingham/Nicks demo – and though it’s lightweight it plays into the history and is something for fans to hear; to reconnect with that soap-opera back-story that is so important to this band. It’s the weakest song on Extended Play however.
But It Takes Time is gorgeous, Lindsey at the piano, deciding – essentially – that if the band is missing Christine McVie and Christine McVie Songs he’ll just write one. It Takes Time wouldn’t have been out of place on the recent return from Bill Fay. It’s my pick for winning track on EP – it’s the something special you often find on EPs.
And the closer, Miss Fantasy, is another strong pop song. Flavours of the Mac of old. Just enough to distinguish it – and the other songs here – from Lindsey’s solo career; it’s deceptively slight at first – just 17 minutes after all – but you hear the textures, that lovely feel that is signature.
Will it change the world? No. Will it keep the fans happy? Of course.