Brian Wilson: No Pier Pressure (Universal)

 |   |  1 min read

Brian Wilson: The Last Song
Brian Wilson: No Pier Pressure (Universal)

As many senior Elsewhere readers or young scholars will know, Greil Marcus once famously opened his review of Bob Dylan's Self Portrait album with, "What is this shit?"

So, eschewing originality, we might say that about the second song on this new album by the still-damaged but still occasionally brilliant Brian Wilson.

Between the beautifully layered vocals of the brief set-up opener and the yearning, if over-produced Whatever Happened ('to my favourite places?") there is some appalling retro-Eighties shit (ft Sebu) called Runaway Dancer.

The name alone should be a warning because It's the kind of crap that might have sounded decent back in the day when Richard Gere or Patrick Swayze were young, cool and smouldering on the big screen.

And then not too long after Wilson takes a backing vocal role for On the Island (ft She and Him) which hardly sets the contemporary world alight either.

From there on this album alternates between "This is the shit!" and "What is this shit?"

As always there are quasi-gems: the wistful instrumental Half Moon Bay which is the domain of trumpeter Mark Isham is really rather lovely; although an Eighties production imposes itself on The Right Time (with Al Jardine) it's nice pop, as is the brightly stepping Guess You Had To Be There (with singer Kacey Musgraves out front); and -- if you can put aside the musical embellishments which swamp it -- Tell Me Why is a fine piece of big hearted balladry.

The final track The Last Song shows more of the old gift than most in a typically sentimental but heartfelt ballad. You can almost imagine Brian and old Surfer Girl(friend) at the beach looking at the last light of the California sun sinking as a cool breeze blows through, and they consider their lives, the damages they've done to themselves and others, and realising that in the end being together is where they should have been.

An album bookended by greatness and promise. 

Much as we might want Wilson to be more contemporary (at least he's not singing about high school which he seemed to do for far too long in adulthood) only rarely here does he manage to marry his gifts with music or styles which don't sound borrowed (Our Special Love with Pere Hollens) or mundane.

On his album Lucky Old Sun in '08, Wilson reached for -- and almost touched -- the genius of old.

Here again though, that reach is far too often diminished and such moments of that wonderful gift become just that -- moments -- and, as is often the case, he is sometimes incidental to production and guest vocalists.

Declaration: I don't have any album credits before me so I'm now curious to see who wrote or co-wrote these songs and is responsible for the various production styles.

There is much more about Brian Wilson (including an interview/encounter) and classic Beach Boys here and here

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Tono and the Finance Company: Fragile Thing EP (Border)

Tono and the Finance Company: Fragile Thing EP (Border)

One of the nicest things about small indie artists is the care they lavish on the presentation of their low-key albums. Witness the delightful Tokey Tones albums or even the more rough-hewn albums... > Read more

Joan Osborne: Bring It On Home (Saguaro Road)

Joan Osborne: Bring It On Home (Saguaro Road)

Joan Osborne's mid-90s hit (“what if God was”) One of Us almost killed her career. A 32-year old gutsy soul-blues singer with an earthy stage act, she struggled to distance herself... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

NZ EPs by Shani.O

NZ EPs by Shani.O

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Shani.O. She will scoop up some of those many EP releases by New... > Read more

THE CORNERSTONE COLLECTION (2011): The 101 building blocks of any serious CD collection

THE CORNERSTONE COLLECTION (2011): The 101 building blocks of any serious CD collection

In early 2011 I was invited by JB HiFi to collate -- for a giveaway booklet through their New Zealand stores -- the 101 albums I thought which should be in any serious music collection. That was... > Read more