In the opening minutes of Under the Skin, Lindsey Buckingham sings of ”visions always deferred,” alluding to 14 years passing since his last solo album. He’s griped that every time he gets one under way, Fleetwood Mac bandmates rope him into another reunion, cannibalizing his song stockpile. So if these songs lean toward his eccentric side, maybe that was intended as an early defensive measure against any further Mac attacks.
Skin is high-concept in that it’s theoretically stripped-down, consisting almost entirely of Buckingham’s voice and acoustic guitar. But he’s too much the Brian Wilson-worshipping studio maestro not to multitrack that voice into nearly choral rounds of oddly punctuated pop harmonies, and he’ll certainly use the marvels of engineering to make those nylon strings sound deliriously big. It might be acoustic, but the last thing you’d call it is unplugged.
Unhinged? Sure. Some lyrics recall his most neurotic LP, 1984’s aptly titled Go Insane; other times, he’s a newly placid family man, or trying (”a madman… looking for paradise”). But on this album, quieter means less gentle: His fingerpicking is impossibly frantic in its nervous virtuosity, and each near-whisper is miked to sound like a scream. It’s the spartan-yet-gonzo sound of a guy remembering he can go his own way.