Peter Buck and Joseph Arthur team up


For­mer R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and of­ten-ex­per­i­men­tal singer-song­writer Joseph Arthur have teamed up for an al­bum that was writ­ten mostly in a few days af­ter a chance en­counter in Mex­ico and recorded nearly as quickly. Fresh and spon­ta­neous, it’s also filled with pre­cious sonic de­tails, like lit­tle flashes spark­ing the songs.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Buck’s lay­ers of acous­tic gui­tars and bright and brief so­los pro­vide nu­mer­ous R.E.M. tex­tures, and the tunes bear plenty more traces of the 1985-1995 pop decade. Arthur’s role and con­tri­bu­tions are just as sig­nif­i­cant. As he of­ten does on his own al­bums, he plays most of the in­stru­ments, wrote the lyrics and sings the songs.

“Amer­i­can Cen­tury” sounds like “Pop Life”-era Prince, but sung by Axl Rose in his low reg­is­ter, while “If You Wake Up in Time” echoes the Talk­ing Heads. David Bowie’s spirit in­fuses “Wide Awake in Novem­ber,” and the brief “Sum­mer­time” could be a David Syl­vian/ Robert Fripp in­ter­lude.

Opener “I Am The Mo­ment” would have fit seam­lessly on one of the last R.E.M. al­bums, while closer “Can’t Make It With­out You,” with its haunt­ing, dol­phin’s cry-like faux string sec­tion, could be from “New Ad­ven­tures in Hi-Fi.”

Lyri­cally — in line with the ur­gency of their cre­ation — there is some top­i­cal ma­te­rial, like “Amer­i­can Cen­tury” and maybe “Wide Awake in Novem­ber,” but the dom­i­nant mood seems to be about mak­ing the most of one’s op­por­tu­ni­ties amid our fraz­zled lives at hy­per­speed.

Buck is a known and trea­sured com­mod­ity but if you’re not fa­mil­iar with Arthur’s al­bums, search out gems like “The Fam­ily” and you’ll hear just how much he brings to the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

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