28 Mar

There’s only so many hours of the day and my music collection tends to suffer in favor of video games, great movies, horrible movies, books, and general internet knowledge.  I do what any American would do in this case and I outsource my musical selection to other hipper websites.  I then look over the results, sample the wares, and I decide whether I want to listen to the whole album.

And this is how I found Brian Wilson presents SMiLE

When I typed in Brian Wilson in my iTunes search bar the only response I got back was David Bowie’s demented cover of God Only Knows.  I was lacking in Beach Boys music which was odd because I was raised with the Beatles and oldies Motown and Bebop  music playing in the background.  I could sing all of those songs and have no clue who wrote them and when and in what context.  I LOVED the Beach Boys but I only had a cursory knowledge of their top 40 radio hits.

I was shocked then to find out about this album which is, in essence, a long-lost Beach Boys album written as a dark choral piece.  Brian Wilson described it as a “teenage symphony to God.”

The legend behind this is captivating for all you Wikipedia junkies.  The story is that Brian Wilson and his Beach Boys were in friendly competition with the Beatles.  Brian Wilson (who was the brain behind the Beach Boys) released Pet Sounds, which contained the song “God Only Knows” which Paul McCartney described as the greatest song ever written (through mashed teeth no doubt).  You see it was embarrassing to the Beatles that it took four of them to create music that could only approach one of Brian Wilson’s songs.

The Beatles then retreated to their studio and created Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably their greatest album.  Paul played A Day in the Life for Brian Wilson which, in hindsight, is a pretty fucking mean thing to do.  That would be like Leonardo DaVinci shoving the Mona Lisa in a little kid’s face that was just showing him an awesome drawing he made, “oh hey kid, I just wanted to show you my painting, yes you like it? What do you think of it huh?? How does it compare to your drawing of a Pokemon!?”

Brian Wilson was pretty affected by this and a number of other unrelated difficulties in his life including drugs, because EVERYONE was on drugs  including the Beatles making their schmusic. Brian cancelled SMiLE because he wasn’t ready and maybe the world wasn’t either.

And here’s the kicker, the album SMiLE was released in 2004!  And it’s amazing, I mean it is just as good as Sgt. Pepper’s.  In a way it is so powerful that I started thinking about how great music can feel so personal.  The album contains the sounds of the Beach Boys, the sound of my youth, but beautifully gnarled.  You can hear the pop sound of Americana connecting to the big important music of the past.  You should listen to this album in its entirety, but just in case I haven’t convinced you, let me highlight some of my favorite tracks.

Tracks 1 and 2: Our Prayer/Gee and  Heroes and Villains

I wasn’t fucking around when I said this was a twisted Beach Boys.  It’s their sound stretched to its limit.  Stoner G said it sounded weird and like Glee but Hole is his favorite band

Track 5 Old Master Painter

A weird disconnected little version of You Are My Sunshine that follows through with…

Track 6 Cabin Essence

The melody is melancholy and familiar and the chorus is familiar but heavenly.  It’s like the Beach Boys died and went to heaven.

Track 8 Song for Children

This song has a form from the 60’s that I miss in modern music.

Track 11 I’m in Great Shape / I wanna be around / Workshop

Totally deranged, only tangentially Beach Boys and a little schizophrenic at 3 songs in 2 minutes, but I love it!

Track 13 On A Holiday

Psychedelic. I’ve heard  modern music influenced by the Beach Boys that sounds like this.

Track 16 In Blue Hawaii

I don’t know too many albums that have these powerful linking songs.  I’m talking about Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, or David Bowie singing three interlinked tracks on Diamond Dogs before he crash lands into Rebel Rebel (goosebump inducing fuck yeahs), or the entirety of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s, but if the last two songs on this album aren’t amazing then I don’t know what is.  Blue Hawaii is gorgeous and if the death of my childhood has a soundtrack then this would be it.  And finally

Track 17 Good Vibrations

The album ends on fucking Good Vibrations!  An involuntary grin of joy sprung on my face when the album ended and like any great movie, book, or video game, I immediately restarted the whole thing as soon as it was done.

The Beach Boys meant so much to me and to discover this album was to discover something about myself that I had forgotten but now held enormous meaning.  As I researched Brian Wilson I discovered that he and I were both born and raised in Inglewood Los Angeles and later moved to Hawthorne and attended the same high school, though I think those places were less hood back then.


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