First things first: You are going to need a turntable for this one. Like Peter Buck’s eponymous 2012 solo debut, also released on Mississippi Records, the former R.E.M. guitarist's latest offering is analog-only. Those following Buck’s activity over the past decade will be familiar with the cast of characters involved: Scott McCaughey, Kurt Bloch and Bill Rieflin help crank out the tunes on I Am Back to Blow Your Mind Once Again, making gritty, Stooges-esque noise throughout.
“Southerner,” a collaboration with Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood, is without much doubt the aural outlier of the record. The semi-spoken-word track, backed by subtle acoustic guitar and violin, is musically haunting; the song is not-so-subtly about the declining character of the deep South due to corporatization and commodification.
The psychedelic garage-rocker “My Slobbering Decline” sounds, well, insane, and Buck’s nearly incoherent vocals make clear that he’s more concerned with enjoying himself than pandering. Songs like “Monkey Mask” and a cover of the Mummies' “(You Must Fight to Live) On the Planet of the Apes” (there are more than a few hints that Buck wanted to go primal with this album) feature Buck and company wilding out on sing-along choruses over chunky, distorted guitars.
I Am Back is light years away from the polished rock that Buck’s former operation was churning out at the end of its tenure. (“Life is Short” has a little of the classic R.E.M. jangle, but only if you listen for it.) If you’ve got the prerequisite stereo equipment, the record will deliver on its promise. 4 out of 5.