Peter Buck was R.E.M., make no mistake about it. No other guitarist - save for maybe Johnny Marr and The Edge - possessed such a distinct tone that was entirely their own. The second you heard that fuzzy high end jangle of his guitar, you knew immediately who you were listening to every single time. Even when he switched it up with a mandolin, he couldn’t escape his own distinct style of playing.
And even though he is completely submerging it in pure garage thickness with the stuff he’s been putting out under his own name, there’s no denying you are listening to a Peter Buck record.
“I Am Back to Blow Your Mind Once Again,” like his eponymous 2012 solo debut, eschews the exposure Warner Bros. could have given Buck for the folksy comfort of the tiny Mississippi Records label. And while more copies of this album were printed than its now ridiculously collectible predecessor were pressed, it is again a vinyl-only situation.
Buck continues to flex his muscles in ways he never quite could with R.E.M., coming across more like fellow early IRS Records label-mates The Cramps than his own past glories on raw rockers like “My Slobbering Decline” and a feral cover of the Mummies’ “(You Must Fight to Live) On the Planet of the Apes.” On the other hand, the semi-spoken word collaboration with Drive-By Truckers front man Patterson Hood could be the rowdy, rural cousin of “Belong” from Out of Time, while that undeniable Peter Buck tone which has been forever tattooed in your memory rings loud and clear across “Life Is Short.”
It will be interesting to reckon if the next year might or might not bring the solo debuts of Michael Stipe or Mike Mills. Both prospects are wholly anticipated and welcomed by many fans of the R.E.M. universe, no doubt. But with “IABTBYMOA,” Buck has set the bar sky high.
- Ron Hart, Weekender Correspondent