Peter Buck has dyed his hair blonde! Arthur Buck is the new collaboration between legendary former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur who once had one of his songs used in an aftershave ad. This is polished rock ‘n’ roll, featuring Buck’s crunching guitar and Arthur’s gravel-scratched voice. Eponymous album available on limited edition indies only red and blue split colour vinyl, standard black vinyl and CD on New West.
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I'm not overly happy with Joseph Arthur here. What I don't understand is this. When in R.E.M Peter Buck hated guitar solos and wouldn't have them on the records yet here he is happy for someone (presumably not him) to screech them and then for them to be actually left in the mix. Did they get put on after he left the sessions? Worse still...did they happen on his watch?
It's a shame Arthur has cluttered this because beneath all the 90s style over production there's some pretty solid songwriting. Buck contributes a 'Losing My Religion' style mandolin line to opener 'I Am the Moment'. Lord knows what Arthur was thinking with the 'scratching' that appears half way through the verse but it's very typical of the bits that are wrong with this record. Similarly 'Are You Electrified' is a good song with some solid Buck acoustics which has been slathered in too much extraneous stuff and quickly gives you a headache. The Clapton-esque riffs on 'The Wanderer' are where I finally the moment where I decide I want to hit Arthur.
There's a few moments where it becomes strikingly obvious that this could have been good. Arthur has always fancied himself as a bit of a Beck and there's lots of him on this record for good and bad. His gravelly bark generally sits nicely with Buck's chunky riffs and on one or two occasions they come up with then kind of things that could have been hits in the '90s. 'American Century' in particular builds up to a fantastic chorus which has a kind of T-Rex/Sweet feel to it. It's great fun and pretty brilliant and try getting it out of your head. I have. It's impossible - trust me.
As an ardent R.E.M fan I'm always interested in what Buck does and I've been through a Joseph Arthur period in my life too. There's moments when the duo hit upon something special but more often than not the records busyness works against it and we're left with a so-so late 90s Beck album.
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