In the decade since Fleetwood Mac released 2003′s “Say You Will,” a new surge of interest in the group’s distinctive pop style has taken hold in the modern pop, alternative and country communities. Recent music by artists as diverse as Cut Copy, Lady Antebellum, Vampire Weekend, Haim, Daft Punk, John Mayer and Little Big Town was inspired by the warmth and harmonic richness of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks era, and last year’s tribute album, “Just Tell Me That You Want Me,” offered persuasive testimony to the band’s enduring influence.
But for all the enthusiasm those acts show for Fleetwood Mac’s pop shimmer, most would balk at walking a mile in their shoes, and continued tension within the band is a key reason why they only mustered four tracks for “Extended Play,” Fleetwood Mac’s first new material since 2003. But this concise burst of fresh songs, mostly co-produced by Buckingham and Mitchell Froom (Crowded House), says more about what it really means to be part of Fleetwood Mac than anything since “Rumours” and “Tusk.” Buckingham takes it on directly with “Sad Angel,” which addresses the challenge of getting Nicks on board with new Mac material while the fans are “calling out for more.” Even the inclusion of “Without You,” an unreleased Buckingham Nicks song, underlines the continued tension — putting the song on “Extended Play” was a compromise after Nicks and Buckingham could not agree on how to handle the 40th anniversary of the “Buckingham Nicks” album.
But Buckingham extends an olive branch with “It Takes Time,” a rare piano ballad from the band since Christine McVie’s retirement. The song acknowledges that Buckingham bears some of the burden here, and that he carries his own emotional baggage to every Fleetwood Mac gig. The group wraps up “Extended Play” with Buckingham’s “Miss Fantasy,” a wistful uptempo song about “the queen of the underground.” “Everyone whispers when you go, into the silence soft and low/ Ten thousand voices, crying ‘on with the show,” Buckingham sings. Over 35 years after the romantic fissures that nearly wrecked the band, on “Extended Play” Fleetwood Mac proves that some chains never really break.
— George Lang