Peter Buck really needs no introduction at all. As the guitarist and one of the founder members of 80’s legends R.E.M., he has soundtracked my own life since I first saw the band on ‘Whistle Test’ in 1984. R.E.M. recorded fifteen albums during their thirty-one year career and toured heavily, but this was never enough for any of the members of the band, all of whom were involved in other projects beyond the group.

Peter Buck was the most busy member outside the band, producing records for the Feelies, Dreams So Real, the Fleshtones, Uncle Tupelo (which grew into Wilco) and Mark Eitzel, as well as being a member of the Minus 5, Tuatara, the Baseball Project (with Steve Wynn), Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 and Tired Pony (which only released one album but at their only London show played over two and a quarter hours of original material).

This solo debut LP has no album title, was released on Mississippi Records, a label that specializes in blues, gospel, and folk, and has only appeared on vinyl, being limited to a mere 2,000 copies with no download token. It also has no inner sleeve, no lyrics, and no name on its odd-looking front cover, which captures Buck’s surreal humour. Buck is a fan of dinosaurs. They used to keep him company on his guitar amp, but the creature that is on the front sleeve looks more like a lizard. On the rear are photographs from the recording session, which show the other musicians who played on the record.

Drummer Bill Rieflin joined R.E.M. full-time after the band used various stand-ins for Bill Berry, who left in 1997 after suffering a brain aneurysm two years before that nearly killed him. Bill Reiflin had formerly played in industrial bands like Ministry and KMFDM. Guitarist Scott McCaughey was a long-time session player for R.E.M. and, as well being a fellow Venus 3, Baseball Project and Minus 5 member, he also fronted Young Fresh Fellows. Vocalist Corin Tucker was the front woman in female grunge trio Sleater-Kinney, and percussionist Jenny Conlee is a member of the Decemberists. Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, who also compiled the 1972 Elektra Records garage rock retrospective ‘Nuggets', and full-time R.E.M. bass player Mike Mills also add to an already great line-up.

The album itself, which came out last October, is difficult to find, although copies can be found on eBay for about £18. Much as I love vinyl LPs, I don't buy many new vinyl releases, even though it is the music junkies’ preferred format, but I made an exception in this case. Having said that a few years ago in 2008, I collected my ticket for R.E.M.'s Twickenham Stadium show, bought two of the latest Velvet Underground bootleg vinyl LPs, and then on the way home bumped into Peter Buck, whom I showed my latest purchases to. We had a nice chat about them, which of course he knew about already, and he also asked what I wanted to hear a few days later.

Peter Buck wrote this solo album in the three months after the band split in September 2011. He had also recently injured his back and couldn't play the guitar at the time, so he wrote a few lyrics that formed the basis of an album. Buck contributes vocals, but not being a true vocalist he shares some of them with Scott McCaughey.

The album has the odd bit of R.E.M. magic to it and, of course, Peter’s Rickenbacker comes out, but at the same it doesn’t sound like any of R.E.M’s albums.

It opens up with ‘10 Million BC’, which was a free download. It is as raw as 60’s ‘Pebbles’ garage rock and as gritty as the early Cramps, with a pleasant garage twang to it. Its solo is a piano-based jazzy Doors-like riff.
‘It's Alright’ has a deep bass line by Mike that carries it along, while Peter’s vocal is reminiscent of Steve Wynn. It is very pleasant, and the solo again recalls an experimental Doors.

‘Some Kind of Velvet Sunday Morning’ is like a sugarcoated Velvets, and is sung as a duet between Peter and Corin that recalls Lou Reed and Nico. ‘Travel without Arriving’ is much more mystical like ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ or ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’-era Beatles, and psychedelic and groovy.

‘Migraine’ is piano-based, very slow and eerie, and like horror film soundtrack music. ‘Give Me Back My Wig’ is a garage rock/Stooges-style number with its fuzzy guitars and a vocal that recollects Lemmy.

‘Nothing Matters’ ends side one of the LP, and, a total joy, is in the spirit of summer Beach Boys, Big Star or even the Raspberries.

The second side starts with ‘So Long Johnny’, which is a superfast and cool Americana. ‘L.V.M.F.’ stands for ‘Little Village Mother Fucker’, and features a harpsichord, but is based in hip hop and involves lots of rap and, as you might imagine, plenty of swearing.

‘Nothing Means Nothing’ is as close to R.E.M. as this records gets, and is fronted by Corin whose voice on this track is like that of Patti Smith. ‘Hard Old World’ is a cool slow blues number in the style of Chuck Prophet, while ‘Nowhere No Way’ recollects Steve Wynn.

‘Vaso Loco’ is one of the album's highlights for me, and is a 1977 CBGB's punk rock number with a garage flavour. ‘I'm Alive’ ends this album, and is as raw as early Television, but taints it with a 60’s garage feel and is very psychedelic.

This is a wonderful album which is very much worth searching out.











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21451 Posted By: lisa torem (chicago, il.)

Hi Anthony,
I've seen Peter perform with The Baseball Project and Robyn Hitchcock in Chicago several times. He always struck me as a very creative musician with a mellow stage persona. I enjoyed your perspective.

Lisa


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