While Arthur Buck could very well be one, elegantly named dude, Arthur Buck is in fact two dudes—R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Joseph Arthur, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter that often finds himself a member of not-quite-super groups like Fistful of Mercy and RNDM. (That Grammy nom was for Best Recording Package by the way.)
Though the two have collaborated over the years here and there—Arthur has opened for R.E.M. in the past—this latest team-up is the result of a chance encounter in Mexico. The two started jamming together and the songs evolved organically. Before the duo knew it, they had an album’s worth of songs. And that’s basically what the album sounds like—two guys of a certain age doing stuff they think is really cool that only winds up being cool to guys of a certain age.
Kicking things off with “I Am The Moment,” we’re instantly awash in pseudo-mystic lyrics (“Just tune into the presence that’s clear / What’s real is always nearer than near”) and ill-advised production flourishes. “Are You Electrified” fares slightly better. It is catchy, and it’s got that jangly Peter Buck guitar, but the cheesy, blues-pop and Arthur’s grizzled, whisper-yell singing sounds about 10 years too late. I’ve got a sinking feeling my dad might like this.
“The Wanderer” cranks the production up even further, as if to compete with the technically-skilled but super white-man’s-overbite guitar solos from Buck. And the husky-throated, street-preacher vocal delivery continues through “Forever Waiting,” its interesting, shuffling rhythm and affirmative lyrics (“Your weakness is what you haul / But I believe you can change every morning”) unfortunately bogged down by weird production choices. “If You Wake Up In Time,” brings in a tightly-coiled drum machine as the foundation to a song that lyrically, seems to be addressing someone with negative energy in the tone of a self-involved yogi (“You hate almost everyone / So how come you want to waste my time / Confiscate the setting sun / Holding hostage / My peace of mind”), and musically, comes out sounding like a lame, alt-rock, mid-tempo diddy straight out of 2002.
From there, it doesn’t get any better, though the blatantly political “American Century” raises some interesting ideas (“America back to civil war” “Social media diplomacy / Leaving Puerto Rico out in the dark,” “Opiates instead of weed for the teens / Ain’t no captives here” are all some key phrases you could drop to start an argument next Thanksgiving), and “Forever Falling” mixes together a chorus of Joseph Arthurs singing in unison with breezy, Baja guitar in a way that makes it sound like a cross between “We Are The World” and Sugar Ray—if you’re into that sort of thing.