Review: Peter Buck and Joseph Arthur in spontaneous alliance
Arthur Buck, “Arthur Buck” (New West Records)
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.