Lights channels, then improves upon, Fleetwood Mac on second album, 'Rites'

Who ever thought a band could out-Fleetwood Mac mid-’70s Fleetwood Mac? It scarcely seemed possible, but that’s exactly what Lights does on its second album, “Rites” (Drag City).

It’s a lush, trippy record, and you’d be forgiven for wondering at times if it’s a deadpan send-up of “Rumours” or “Tusk” – they even cover “Save Me a Place,” for crissakes. It’s not ironic, though. Lights just really loves that over-the-top, Our Rock is Art sound. And even though Listen, Dammit, hates Fleetwood Mac and everything it stands for, Lights makes it work.

Surely that’s due to the heavy dose of psychedelia here that goes in directions the Mac was too self-absorbed to consider: “Rites” is full of swirling wah-wah guitars, occasional horns and blissed-out female vocal harmonies. Taken at face value, the songs are ridiculous: there are lots of lyrics about water and mountains and fire, and in the liner notes under “War Theme,”  it simply says “(clap your hands).”

All the same, “Rites” is fascinating, both for the rippling soundscapes and for the completely unselfconscious ways in which the musicians create them. It’s like they’re alone in a gauzy world full of music, and maybe kindly dragons, following their creative impulses wherever they lead.

(Photo by Ben Rowland)

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