Pet Sounds may be in comfortable middle age, with today being it’s 49th birthday making it one year to go before the Golden Anniversary. But if the release date may suggest it comes from a very different era, it’s also very clear that the record is also younger than yesterday, and fresher than many of the tired old sounds coming out today. It’s ready to speak to a new generation, captivate it with it’s beautiful sounds, harmonies, exotic instrumentation and lyrics that speak to every person’s desire for love and acceptance. And whatever may happen, whether our hearts get broken or find happiness, the music will always be there.
It’s the title of a major (hopefully) movie, so Brian’s signature song may not be “hidden beauty” for too much longer. But given that the Brian Wilson solo album didn’t exactly set the charts on fire, it seems very fair to induct this song for now in our pantheon of Brian’s Hidden Beauties.
It was the centerpiece of Brian’s solo album, in a possibly overblown but also quite moving version. A more understated version appears on the I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times soundtrack, before it became Brian’s staple concert closer -and we get another version on the Live At The Roxy record.
It’s easy to see why this song has been sent to represent Brian -both in his concerts and now the movie. The idea of love and mercy is universal, maybe simplistic, but surely both things that the world can’t get enough. When accompanied by a simple, winning melody, the song becomes a classic even if it is still a hidden beauty.
The prolific Peter Lacey is back with a vinyl and digital single; the lead track is Wayward Song, backed with Many Moons Ago. Wayward Song is a complex, multi-layered track with SMiLe-like sections, but with a beautiful and memorable core section. The B-side is a more conventional folk pop song, with a nostalgic and reflective theme. It’s another highly enjoyable release in a somewhat different format, and worth checking out at Bandcamp.
I reviewed the first Surf School Dropouts album in 2012, shortly after the release of That’s Why God Made The Radio. Now, at the same time as the new Brian (plus many Beach Boys guests) album has seen the light of the day, we have Second Nature, another harmony and melody-laden record that reminds us of the best of California, even although it is an ocean and a few lines of latitude away.
As with their first record -and indeed No Pier Pressure, there’s no ground-breaking new sound here, but there doesn’t need to be -this is the familiar, beautiful sound that reminds us of what music can do and what life can be. So the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson influence is clear here, but there is also a detectable soulful Carl Wilson-like touch which has been missing from recent Beach Boys and Brian Wilson records.
Highlights include the instant earworm, Summer Rain, and the achingly beautiful Where Have You Gone. It’s a great record, overall though, and worth seeking out -you can download here on Amazon.
It’s encouraging to see Brian Wilson being awarded with the best original song for Love And Mercy at the Nashville Film Festival. What is especially interesting is the song for which the award was given – One Kind Of Love from No Pier Pressure. Given the lyrical theme of that song, it seems to tie in well with what I understand the movie to be about -but it will be fascinating to see which other Brian Wilson songs are featured in the movie.
It’s been a few weeks since the release of No Pier Pressure, but it’s also just a few weeks to go for the premiere of Love And Mercy. And here is a groovy movie poster, designed by Kii Arens -you can see a full size version here.
I’m back from my overseas trip, and have seen the sad news about Jack Rieley’s passing -he was an important figure in the Beach Boys’ story -especially in the Surf’s Up to Holland era in which much great music was produced.
There seems to have been mixed critical and public reaction to No Pier Pressure -#14 in the USA and #25 in the UK is respectable, but not brilliant -while the Metacritic average of 57 is OK, but not reflecting the achievement of this record. To balance the books a bit, here is a great review from Peter Reum.
I read today in the news that ISIS, the hateful extremist group in the Middle East, punished musicians with 90 lashes -the pretext was it was “unIslamic” but surely it was more the potential for music to inspire, console and heal.
And that indeed is what music is supposed to do, and what Brian Wilson has been doing for than 50 years. Through his own tribulations, music has been his escape but also his gift to the world. He perfected it by the age of 23, releasing the greatest record released by humankind, Pet Sounds. In trying to surpass this record, he went to the edge of madness, but still was able to finish it many years later. He found his sound 45 years ago -the perfect combination of melody, harmony and reflection of deep human emotion. There is certainly no need for him to innovate -but it is a joy when he still gives us reminders of that glorious past.
There is no pier pressure on Brian -but also no harm in him inviting some of his old bandmates and some new friends to take us another trip through the sunshine and darkness of human experience, and layer it in the magical pop sounds he is known for. We are blessed with 13 new songs (16 on the deluxe edition), and while there may be more featured artists than a modern rap album, and even a venture into urban music on Runaway Dancer, the heart of this album is rightfully and joyfully in the past.
There is something of a celebration on the record, but it doesn’t skirt past some of the deep emotions that make Brian’s best work so vital. The opener This Beautiful Day is an opening invocation calling us to capture and be thankful in a moment, and recalling Our Prayer in more than a few ways. We end with the Last Song, ostensibly a final plea to ex-bandmates, but possibly even a final message from Brian. The final words “there’s never enough time for the ones that you love” are poignant and thought-provoking and both the opener and closer are laced with beautiful piano and strings.
In between, we get the pop perfection of Sail Away and The Right Time, fronted by Blondie and Al in a way that reminds you that the Beach Boys are here in spirit, if not in name. The romantic instrumental Half Moon Bay relaxes and swoons, while collaborations with Sebu (Runaway Dancer), She&Him (On The Island) , Kacey Musgraves (Guess You Had To Be There) and Nate Ruess (Saturday Night) give the album some vocal and musical variety, without necessarily being the strongest moments.
The emotion actually picks up on some of the more understated tracks -What Ever Happened and Tell Me Why both feature Al Jardine’s vocals, a highlight of the record, and mourn the passing of time and love affair respectively in classic Brian style, while One Kind Of Love refers to healing, unconditional love that we all need. The Peter Hollens track, Our Special Love, has been released for a while, but fits in nicely here, with it’s beautiful sound and emotion.
The “bonus tracks” on the deluxe edition fit in seamlessly, and if they are more “throwaway” from Brian, seem to almost benefit from that approach. Somewhere Quiet is Summer Means New Love with words, showcasing the romantic side, while I’m Feeling Sad shows that everything isn’t always sunshine and roses, contrasting with the uplifting Don’t Worry.
Overall, No Pier Pressure is more than satisfactory, mostly with Brian doing what he does best, making beautiful, healing music. Aside from The Last Song, there are maybe no major classics, but there are plenty of minor ones. One hopes it will make old fans smile, win new fans and be a fitting soundtrack to what should be the summer of Brian.
The Brian Fest, held on 30 March, appears to have been a great success, with articles and videos appearing all over the internet. A comprehensive article, including setlist, can be found here.
The joy of the Brian Fest is tempered with the sadness that another cast member of the great Beatles drama has taken a final bow. Cynthia Lennon was a woman of great grace, and it is very sad to report her passing on yesterday.