Brian Wilson is a legend. Without him and Paul McCartney trying to outdo each other with the Beach Boys and the Beatles respectively (just in case you’ve been under a rock, for forever) over the course of the sixties, that decade could have turned out to be very different musically. And while like a lot of very talented people he’s had to confront a lot of demons, there can be no doubt that he’s a supremely talented musician.
So how does his eleventh solo album measure up? Well, leaving aside the rather cringeworthy pun of the title (unless that’s an oblique reference to the fact he wasn’t into surfing), there are some great bits on this album. The opening ‘This Beautiful Day’ is only ninety seconds long, but the ’60s Beach Boys’ harmonies meeting 1950s smoky jazz is simply stunning and it is an example of Wilson’s utter genius. He is able to do more in these ninety seconds than some artists do in an entire lifetime. The album is also bookended with the appropriately titled ‘Last Song’ which stays just the right side of schmaltz and might just be the best thing on here.
It doesn’t all work. ‘Runaway Dancer’ – a collaboration with Sebu – and ‘Don’t Worry’ see him flirting with disco, of the ultra-watered down variety, rather than the Nile Rogers-helmed goldlike variety. ‘Whatever Happened,’ which is in part a collaboration with Beach Boy Al Jardine, is classic Wilson in terms of form and style, and yet not, somehow, ultimately in the final result.
But there’s a number of excellent songs on this collection which make it worth investigating, such as ‘Our Special Love,’ ‘Sail Away’ and ‘Tell Me Why’ which demonstrate that fifty years on he most definitely still has got it. Like a lot of albums ever since the advent of CD, this record may be a little long, but that shouldn’t stop you checking out the songs within.
No Pier Pressure is out now on Virgin/EMI.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.