Music’s cyclical nature means that every few years, another classic artist becomes influential to a new generation of bands. Recent recipients of this reputation-boost include Talking Heads, Gang of Four, Joy Division, the Beach Boys and the Band; the current seminal act du jour is Fleetwood Mac. While the band has never really disappeared from the public eye – Camper Van Beethoven did its own version of Tusk in 2002 and everyone from John Mayer to Joe Jackson have performed live covers – the ‘Mac is currently experiencing a huge surge in fashionable popularity.
Appropriately, one of the biggest modern champions of the band, Best Coast, anchors Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac. The band’s take on “Rhiannon” is no-nonsense, although the handclaps and bouncy piano make it more pleasantly whimsical than gritty and mystical. The New Pornographers’ jaunty take on “Think About Me” is another treat, a tangle of zooming synthesizers and the spitfire vocal interplay between A.C. Newman and Neko Case, while Tame Impala nails the starry-eyed psychedelic vibe of Lindsey Buckingham’s Tusk album cut, “That’s All For Everyone.”
Indeed, what’s great about Just Tell Me That You Want Me is that it’s willing to explore beyond the obvious hits. Sure, the band’s most successful era is well-represented – Karen Elson’s “Gold Dust Woman” has a dusty, twangy edge; Antony croons “Landslide” with appropriate gravitas; and the Kills’ twitching “Dreams” is spare and jagged. Yet there’s a faithful cover of the Peter Green-penned 1969 instrumental “Albatross” – interpreted by Lee Ranaldo Band and J. Mascis with bluesy, mournful reverence – and an ominous, fuzzy, electronic-tinged take on the lesser-known Tusk single “Sisters Of The Moon” by St. Vincent and Shudder To Think’s Craig Wedren. And Washed Out interprets “Straight Back” as a synthpop throb full of longing that sounds more like a circa-1991 dancefloor than it does FM radio in 1982.
Even artists who are Fleetwood Mac’s contemporaries have insightful takes on the band’s music. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and pals (including recent Fiona Apple tourmate Blake Mills) interpret “Oh Well” as a junkyard blues number, while Marianne Faithfull’s version of “Angel” is urbane, vibrant and reminiscent of Velvet Underground’s droll, proto-indie strolls. That newer and older artists alike can find unique angles to approach Fleetwood Mac’s music is indicative of the band’s enduring legacy – and a testament to its songwriting genius.