You've Been Asleep for a Hundred Seconds

Friday, October 01, 2004

CD Revue: Brian Wilson - SMiLE

For the past two days I have been listening to this album non-stop. It’s the best album of the year and an album I never though could exist. A masterpiece that had lost its chance to exist when Brian hand a nervous breakdown in 1967 and the Beach boys scrapped SMiLE and recorded Smiley Smile in its place. I’d long been a fan of the SMiLE after hearing bootlegs of the remaining tapes but it was an incomplete piece. The fact that Brian was able to put it back together with help from Darian Sahanaja and Van Dyke Parks after 37 years is astonishing. The rest of the Beach Boys are missed, especially Carl, but it was the right decision to make it a totally new recording. Both Brian and his band are in top form. This new SMiLE is a much happier work than I could have imagined. It’s hard to describe how special this album it is. It’s not just a collection of songs. It’s like a symphony with different themes and pieces of music returning. The most striking sections are the ones that have been released for the first time like “Child is Father of the Man” and “Roll Plymouth Rock”. My favorite piece is “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” which recreates the Great Chicago Fire with just music no lyrics and has to be one of the scariest pieces of music ever. I still can’t believe this thing exists.

BTW last Friday NPR ran an excellent story on SMiLE. Listen to it here.


At 10/01/2004 9:15 PM, Blogger Headstart For Happiness said...

I listened to this album as I again (in vain) tried to get to sleep last night. It indeed is very special. I think one thing that makes it so special is that it is so distinctly American. You hear about a lot of British music that is renown for its Britishness, but you don't encounter the same thing with American music very often. I don't know anything about classical music, but this has the breadth, scope, and ambition of Gershwin or a ballet or symphony. Does this happen very often with American music? I may not know because most of the music I own is British. It goes beyond there just being a concept to it.

But that is one reason why I love The Beach Boys. They represent America to me so perfectly, with its wide-eyed inncocence, beauty, and optimism. And there is something very American about the way that reality and hubris crushed that innoncence, as optimized by Brian's breakdown. Yet, he is as innocent and optimistic as ever, just a little bruised and battered.

As much as I love this album, I do really miss the real Beach Boys. Brian's band is amazing, but just listen to Good Vibrations, for example. I think there is an energy missing that was there in the original. It makes you wonder what the Beach Boys version of SMiLE would have been like if he had finished it. But I also have to think that so much of the good feeling that emanates from this album is due to the happy place that Brian is at, surrounded by people who support and love him. That feeling may not have been possible with the Beach Boys.


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