Re-watched the fabulous Brian Wilson biopic, Love and Mercy recently and of course, I spent most of it with a lump in my throat. Isn’t that what Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys has always been about – the emotions? So I decided to present to you, my faithful PoP visitors, eight album tracks you should listen to in order to understand the length, breadth and depth of the ‘feels’ that the Beach Boys are capable of evoking viz. loneliness, melancholy and the usual heartbreak. *Sigh*
“The Lonely Sea”
“The Warmth of the Sun”
“When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”
“And Your Dreams Come True”
“I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”
“Be Here in the Mornin’”
“Time to Be Alone”
Finally, a bit of a cheat – not an album deep cut but a single that the record-buying public just failed to fully appreciate but it will always be my favourite Brian Wilson/Beach Boys song.
If you know nothing about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, I suggest that you swot up before watching Love & Mercy. Cuz it will get bewildering. Or maybe that’s the point of it all!
This biopic of Wilson elects to focus on two very specific periods in the singer-songwriter’s life. First, from about 1964 – 1967, where Wilson had suffered an anxiety attack and ‘retired’ from live performances to concentrate on recording and producing resulting in the masterpiece Pet Sounds LP and the failed attempt to delivered the radical Smile album (whereupon Wilson basically withdrew from the world). Second, in the 80s regarding his guardianship under dubiously abusive therapist Eugene Landy and his budding romance with Melinda Ledbetter (whom he would later marry).
But mainly for his stellar work with the Beach Boys in the sixties. His solo albums have been largely disappointing apart from his eponymous debut and the re-imagining of Smile. The problem is with co-producer Joe Thomas, who also worked on the boards on the ironically titled Imagination and the passable Beach Boys 50th anniversary release, That’s Why God Made the Radio. The sound is just too slick and over-produced and almost sounds like a ham-fisted Beach Boys pastiche. And yes, that awful title is the first bad sign that this album is going to suck and it all goes downhill from there.
Despite all this, the collaborations with former band mates manage to shine above the dross e.g. “Whatever Happened” and “The Right Time” (both with Al Jardine and David Marks) and “Tell Me Why” (also with Jardine). The other collaborations (with She and Him, Kacey Musgraves and Sebu) fall flat and are mostly forgettable like the rest of the album. If only the Wilson camp would give someone like Darian Sahanaja or Sean O’Hagan a chance to help Brian in crafting the sounds but alas, that is probably never going to happen, when Joe Thomas seems to be the favoured one.
Brian Wilson has a new album – No Pier Pressure – coming out soon. The album will be released on Capitol Records on April 7th 2015 and will be produced by Joe Thomas.
Main concern – Thomas tends to favour a very professional slick sound which somewhat flattens out any of Brian’s idiosyncratic tendencies. Compare Thomas’ production on the lacklustre Imagination to that on the incredible Smile album (shepherded by the talented Darian Sahanaja) and you can understand the anxiety.
In any case, the new single “The Right Time” sounds about right, though it’s not quite sure whether ‘right’ is the way to go for Brian. Sigh.