How Indie Rock Fell In Love With Fleetwood Mac

A Fleetwood Mac tribute album was announced yesterday, featuring the cream of indie rock tackling those deathless classics. ‘Just Tell Me That You Want Me’ will be released on 14 August by Hear Music/Concord and includes Mac covers from artists like Best Coast, MGMT, Washed Out and Lykke Li. Suddenly there’s a whole generation of bands who wouldn’t rather jack.

Fleetwood Mac

And this is just the organised tip of the FM revival iceberg. Californian sister act – and one of the hottest bands in the world right now – Haim sneak the bulldozing blues of original bandleader Peter Green’s ‘Oh Well’ into their live sets, while new shows from Hot Chip feature Alexis Taylor and fellow librarians having a go at ‘Everywhere’, the song that swallowed 1987 (Vampire Weekend have covered it too). Just what is it that attracts the current breed of jobbing indie band to the soft-rocking, cocaine-hoovering, sundrenched multi-millionaires’ music?

It’s amazing, obviously. But it surely goes deeper than that. Fleetwood Mac moved through styles in a wayward first decade, usually depending on which lead guitarist was mad at the time, but it tends to be the Mac of the mid-70s and beyond that casts the net furthest. Basically, once Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks got on board and brought with them all that glamour, strife and glorious melody.

‘Tusk’ is one of my favourite records of all time – Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast

But why now? Haim are young enough to think Fleetwood Mac ripped off Phoenix or something, yet exposure to their parents’ record collection – “Stuff like The Beatles, The Doors, The Eagles,” as they told Vice – locked them into that classic AOR radio sound. It’s a similar story with The Pierces before them. And probably Hanson, way back when.

That could happen anytime though; it’s just that there’s something in the air right now. For my money, it’s been a slow-burner since the Guilty Pleasures movement of a decade ago – when the more emotionally stunted listener found they could like unfashionable tunes without handing in their cred cards – and, perhaps more importantly, its own backlash. Now everyone’s unashamed. As well they should be, the cretins.

At the same time, chart music becomes ever more machine-driven and formulaic, creating its own children of the Guetto. No wonder everyone else is reaching out for classic pop songwriting – and a bit of LA sunshine in a bleak world.

Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast – who cover 1975’s ‘Rhiannon’ on the tribute album – told the LA Times she read about the Mac’s grand (but brilliant) folly ‘Tusk’ for “inspiration and guidance” during the recording of their second album ‘The Only Place’. Goodness knows what guidance she took from it. “Don’t do quite so many mountain ranges of drugs, for pity’s sake”? “Maybe listen to the record company once in a while”? But for timeless, fearless songwriting she could hardly have found a better source.