Saturday, 23rd April '05
A little piece of music history has just found its way into my iTunes player.
So here, I finally got to laying my digital hands on it. The modern music world's most highly anticipated album since... 1967. Finally officially released 28th September 2004 as a solo effort by Brian Wilson (sans psychedelic drugs and harmonising family members).
It's funny though, how you just stumble upon these things. Everyone knows the Beach Boys - and I could probably sing you 20 songs flat out, from all that time I spent listening to and coverting Dad's bootleg cassette tapes - but I sure didn't know about SMiLE. Not at least until Amazon labelled it the album of the year 2004, and I just had to "surreptitiously acquire" (thanks, Ave, for convenient terminology) acquire it.
And for the first time since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I'm quite at a lost for what to say. Even though I hadn't heard of it before, a quick Google search revealed the damned album (and I mean to say it might really have been cursed) as quite the Holy Grail of the Beach Boys fan culture. Heck, there about a hundred websites devoted to explaining the mystery / controversy / history of the album, espousing new theories as to why it got canned in the works, guessing at the official tracklisting, hosting music from Smiley Smile (the true SMiLE's disappointing precursor), its relation to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper work... so by the time I clicked the "play" button... well... the anticipation was quite a thing to behold.
But it wasn't quite what I expected... come on, hands up, those of you who like me, thought the Beach Boys were all surf, girls and cars? And with a name like SMiLE, you'd think this would contain some classic Beach Boys ear candy. Nope. Heck, I knew it was experimental, but Brian Wilson's early experimental stuff were of the genre of "Help Me Rhonda" / "Fun Fun Fun"! I was all set for a relaxing, post-Equity&Trusts paper break.
Au contraire. This was a CD of WIERD music - inspired, if my research is right, by Brian Wilson's hippy quarterlifecrisis (though I'm convinced by the time he completed the album this would have been heathily into a threequarterlifecrisis), astrology / zen studies, organic food obession and LSD trips. For ideas listen to "Our Prayer" for a pseudo-spiritual opening, "Barnyard" for humans making animal noises, "Mrs O'Leary's Cow" for some scary shit (good shit, I like this one, but its quite chilling to listen to at midnight - and it's purely instrumental), and "Vega-table" for an ode to Wilson's favourite vegetable. This whole album was supposed to be balanced, containing songs representing Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water, a musical work of art and the album to chuck the Beatles' Sgt Pepper album out the window.
And all I got listening to it was...
* Author's disclaimer: this doesn't mean the album wasn't any good. Although I would much rather the Beach Boy's vocal finness was present to carry it through, it's definitely worth a listen - two or more if you can afford it - to figure it out. There was clearly an artistic vision somewhere, albeit the vision itself not being very clear. And if nothing else, take a listen to satisfy the hype. Let me know what you come up with, coz I'm not likely to figure out anything soon but the mystery of Administrative Law.
[well, the pictures aren't going to take themselves!]