Beach Boys

There's Sand In My Buttcrack!

Introduction
Lost and Found! (1961-2)
Surfin' Safari 
Surfin' USA
Surfer Girl
Little Deuce Coupe
Shut Down, Vol. 2
All Summer Long
Beach Boys Concert
The Beach Boys Christmas Album
Today!
Summer Days (And Summer Nights)
Beach Boys Party!
Pet Sounds
Smiley Smile
Wild Honey
Friends
Stack-O-Tracks
20/20
Live In London
Sunflower
Surf's Up
Carl and the Passions - So Tough
Holland
The Beach Boys In Concert
15 Big Ones
Beach Boys Love You
M.I.U. Album
L.A. (Light Album)
Keepin' the Summer Alive
The Beach Boys
Still Cruisin'
Summer In Paradise

The Lineup Card 1961-1985

Mike Love (vocals)

Al Jardine (vocals, guitar)

Dennis Wilson (drums, keyboards, vocals) until 1980

Carl Wilson (guitar, keyboards, vocals)

Brian Wilson (multiple instruments, vocals) fired in 1982

Bruce Johnston (keyboards, vocals) multiple stints

David Marks (guitar, vocals) multiple stints

Blondie Chaplin (guitar, vocals) 1972-1976

Ricky Fataar (drums, vocals) 1972-1976

 

Capn's Note: The dates and other facts listed above are highly approximate and should be considered such.  The Beach Boys were such a porous group that albums and tours could go by without any involvement from Brian or Dennis, so figuring out when they were or weren't 'in the band' is futile. I'm not even going to approach attempting to track the erratic movements the more marginal sidemembers listed above. The Beach Boys story becomes MUCH less easy to follow after the release of their last real studio album in 1985, splitting into multiple factions with reappearances by old sidemen. Let it be known that the only people you should care anything about are listed above.

The Beach Boys major importance to the world of rock music didn't come with Brian Wilson's mid-Sixties creative blossoming and subsequent Chernobyl meltdown, it came when they were a bunch of cover-by candy-striped, flat-topped teenagers with a bag of stolen Five Freshmen harmonies and Chuck Berry licks, and it's this that makes the Beach Boys one of the most important American bands of all time. See, there's a certain America that old folks like my parents like to remember, a prosperous, clean-cut, bleech-wite place where the only concerns for a young whippersnapper was how fast his car was and who he was going to take to the prom.  There was no mention of impending nuclear holocaust or crushing racism, and no one raised a peep that maybe you shouldn't grow up to be exactly like your parents, buy a little house, a huge car, and get a little tipsy once a year at the Fourth of July picnic while your perfect little kids torture bullfrogs with lit M-80's bought from the kindly Chink outside of town.  'Oldies' radio, and the Beach Boys in particular, represent a fantastical self-delusion that infects most Americans, but especially the post-war pre-hippie generation that happened to be born after all the shit had already come down in this century (i.e., two world wars, a depression, and the criminalization of marijuana and over-the-counter morphine) when their elders were happy just not having to be scratching and clawing for their very survival for once. They like to believe that for one shining moment, the problems that always seem so prescient today (drugs, alcoholism, violence, crime, family disintegration, and the proliferation of horrible cop-drama shows) just didn't exist.  No one even imagined they could happen, and it's just the rotten kids who came later with their shroom-popping long hair and Commie pinko Peter, Paul, and Mary albums that screwed everything up. Since folks finally could enjoy themselves, they lavished their kids with material goods, and why not? America was the richest, most powerful nation in the world for the first time. Ride down in your Chevy Behemoth that got 3.5 mpg to the corner Tastee Freez with your best girl to get a 5 cent lemonade and talk with your buddies about how the football team's gonna do at state. That was the correct behavior for any young, well bred Capitalist Warrior, and any deviation from the norm was to be excised like a cancerous mole.

But who actually lived like that in the 1950's and early 1960's? A whole fuckload fewer people than the people who grew up then like to believe. But the Beach Boys and their contemporaries fed the public the bullshit they craved.  Forget the beautiful but overrated Pet Sounds for a minute...believe it or not, the Beach Boys created a minor revolution with the insular singles about surfing they released between 1961 and 1965. The truth is that music for young people had pretty much died and rotted away as of 1959 when white people realized they weren't quite ready to see black people get loose on television. In the first part of the decade, the spectre of leering, sweating, dangerous 'rock 'n' roll' black monsters (and similarly inclined redneck white dudes) singing lasciviously to impressionable young white girls while wiggling their lower parts had been killed off by a few well-placed arrests (Chuck Berry), scandals (Jerry Lee Lewis, payola), and interventions both Federal (Elvis) and Spiritual (Little Richard).  To fill the vacuum, the knee-jerk music world had been inundated by miniature little castrated Frank Sinatra derivatives like Frankie Avalon and fucking Fabian who were the equivalent of a polite gloved handshake compared to the raw, animalistic fuck session of the late 50's rock 'n' roll era. And believe it or not, this kind of wussy crooner music was every bit as popular as those rock 'n' roll records had been...but, thank Christ, there were difficulties. The main problem was that you couldn't dance to that shit, and teenage guys couldn't relate to the Hallmark card lyrics when all they wanted was to get their hand under Mary Anne's sweater and feel her Marylin Monroe torpedo-tits. There was a musical void that needed to be filled, and in 1961 the Beach Boys were perfect for it.

The Boys were America's first wobbly, tentative, beigest steps back into the world of rock music after several years away, and without their preparatory work, I doubt rock music would've ever taken hold the way it did a few years later with the Beatles and what-have-you.  They made rock 'n' roll music (under the guise of 'surf music') that spoke to fun-obsessed teenagers, which was easy because they were fun-obsessed teenagers themselves (except for Brian, who was a music-obsessed teenager who was strangely apt at writing convincing songs about things he didn't he didn't much care or know anything about).  The three brothers (Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson), their jock cousin (Mike Love), and neighbor (Al Jardine) were clean enough to pass on television but beaty enough to make the kids wiggle, and best of all the success of their beach-bum theme led to a bunch of movies that featured lots of skin, especially for that prudish, sex-starved generation. They created a series of irresistible, sunny hits that ruled AM radio for years, even remaining viable enough to compete with the Beatles for some time. 

The fact that all their songs were written by their shy bass player brother Brian was noteworthy enough to gain them lots of press, but it was Brian's neuroses and ambitions that really set him apart.  The Wilsons' dad, Murry, was a tyrannical, abusive taskmaster who ruled the group like a Baghdad prison colony, riding Brian especially hard.  It seems Murry was a failed songwriter himself, and saw his son's success as a threat.  The all-smiles public persona of the band began to show cracks as Brian tiptoed out of his pigeonhole to write songs like 'In My Room', a testament to self-imposed isolation that gave a peek into the young man's persona, one that had become fractured by his father's abuse and the oddities of too much fame and too much pressure.  Brian's only public concessions to his problems were that he suddenly steadfastly refused to tour, and had some massive freak-outs when they pressured him into doing it.  The band finally relented after an especially dark episode, letting Brian stay in the studio, keeping the golden eggs coming while they toured, got drunk, and screwed early 60's-style groupies. His isolation from the stifling influence of his unimaginative bandmates and asshole father led him to explore the burgeoning LA scene, where he met David Crosby and began smoking weed on a daily basis. Brian the pothead became more and more independent of his band and, best of all, his father.  Not just experiencing the usual mind-opening effects of regular drug use like everyone else,  Brian became fixated on the competition he faced from the Beatles and, especially, Phil Spector, about whom he began an obsession that probably had as much pure negative impact on his fragile psyche as his father did. He felt he had to beat them at their own game, and threw himself into his work. Brian began to write songs that had nothing to do with the usual Beach Boys themes, entering into uncharted areas like religion, relationships, and self-doubt. When the band came back from their nth tour, ready to record the next 'Surfin' USA' and Brian played them demos of stuff like 'Caroline, No', they freaked.  Not only had he written songs that featured weird, intricate arrangements of string sections and bass clarinets much more prominently than guitars and organs, he was fucking with the thematic formula that had made them Number Two in the record-buying world.  He was threatening their commercial survival with a bunch of wussy songs about feeling sad and confused.  This time, they grudgingly let him have his way, and Pet Sounds was born. A zillion words have been written about this album, so I won't contribute to the diarrhea here (just wait for the review, tho), but the final effect was that Brian had done it...he'd created an album that, while commercially so-so, had established the Beach Boys, more than the Beatles, Stones, or Byrds, as the musical revolutionaries of 1966. He'd also ratcheted up the pressure to top himself to impossible heights...he spent six months and some hundred thousand dollars erratically recording, re-recording, and re-re-recording his next single, 'Good Vibrations', an attempt to make the perfect pop song (the final product, the Beach Boys' last truly massive smash hit, came damned close), and immediately followed it by an attempt at making the perfect rock album.  It was during the making of the Pet Sounds followup, dubbed Smile, when Brian came completely unglued. He'd been working and obsessing constantly for over a year and a half, gobbling enough acid to trip out the Eastern Seaboard, and the cracked glass that was his mind simply shattered.  His songs had gone from sublime to bizarre, compounded by his friendship with oddball lyricist Van Dyke Parks. The band reacted with violent confusion, and work on the album ground to a halt. Stories detailing Brian's breakdown during this period, from the sandbox he had installed in his house for his piano to sit in to the truly demonic recording sessions for 'Fire', abound.  The end result was that as of Smiley Smile, a weird record of Smile-session outtakes and singles, Brian became a bit player in his own band and pretty marginal as a human being. 

The rest of the band had to pick up the pieces, and while they had been sitting around grousing to Brian about how weird Smile was, the musical world had shifted under their feet. Kids didn't give a shit about surfing anymore, and without Brian to lead the way, their commercial fortunes continued to deteriorate. Strangely, the other members began to take up the songwriting slack, and though they never did recapture anything close to their mid-60's commercial or artistic peak, they were able to keep a certain level of self-respect as they adjusted to their new status as musical outsiders.  Of course, none of their late-60's or early 70's records sold worth a damn, and they relied on its nostalgic live shows to keep the dough rolling in.  By the mid-Seventies, a greatest hits collection (Endless Summer) had perked up interest in the band, and they attempted a full-on comeback with Brian in tow. Brian's condition had worsened in the previous years to the point at which he didn't leave his closet full of coke, fried steaks, and porn for months and years at a time.  They dragged him out of his house (literally), brushed his grossly obese body off, and set him in front of a piano.  By this time, however, it was a tossup as to who was the craziest person in the band, as Dennis had become a drunken coke fiend and Mike Love had morphed from a girl-crazy megalomaniacal bully into a Maharishi-crazy megalomaniacal bully.  Brian gamely put on a goofy smile and contributed some tracks to their next two albums, entitled 15 Big Ones (which, confusingly, wasn't a Greatest Hits) and The Beach Boys Love You. Brian may have been 'back' ('physically present' was more accurate) but the rest of the band was busting apart at the seams.  They released a series of Mike Love dominated records throughout the late 70's that were so lame they killed off all the lingering comeback spirit created by Loves You, and by 1980, Carl and Dennis had either quit (the former) or been fired (the latter). Brian, still transmitting from the planet Zambar, didn't last much beyond a few years at touring and was soon back sucking down cocaine and meat like a sperm whale while hiding from Phil Spector and Mike Love's sadistic relatives in his coat closet.  Dennis, long hanging on his last thread, finally checked out in 1983 through the most ironic death available...the former Beach Boy, abandoned by everyone except for Brian, was found drowned. The band went into nostalgia-band cruise control for awhile in the 1980's, stooping so low as to enlist the help of fucking John Stamos on drums for an appearance on hot baby chick show Full House, as well as a few live dates. Brian finally began to recover with the help of his unethical-but-effective therapist, and in the process, finally cut the last cords to his old band.  The Mike Love Beach Boys scored one last big hit in 1987 with the retarded 'Kokomo' from the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, watched in horror as Love made an ass out of himself at their Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame induction, then faded into a neverending series of state fairs, promo deals for the likes of Sonic hamburgers, and pricey, repackaged compilations of forty-year-old material.  Carl Wilson died in the late 1990's after boring himself to death, Al Jardine quit the Boys to go touring with something called the 'Beach Boys Family' (a band so closely linked to Charles Manson should not go around calling themselves a 'Family'!), and Brian Wilson has somehow come out of it all as the most stable, commercially viable, and healthy Boy left, performing solo concerts of his old material to rapturous disciples.

The Beach Boys, for all their fascinatingly sordid history, really aren't that interesting of a band to me.  They're beloved by their devotees because of their identification with Wilson as a 'tortured soul' who fought for his artistic integrity and went nuts in the process, and have some of that 'forgotten gem' quality about some of their post-heyday work that critics love to harp on about.  These guys were so uncool for so long that they've become cool again, and even shitsandwiches like L.A. (Light Album) have their devoted fans.  There seems to be a group of people who like them simply because Brian was a nutcase, and another who seems to think each and everything the band put out in the Sixties is some sort of message from the Savior, and others who worship at the chubby altar of Carl or only want to hear Al Jardine's songs. Right. There's also people in the world that hammer nails through their schlongs, and I hear a large percentage of them are Beach Boys fans, too.

Seriously, though, all of the Beach Boys' great work came out between 1964 and 1967 when Brian was at his peak operating condition, and everything else you really need could probably fit on a couple of well-selected CD's. They never rocked, never really made anything that totally went against their grain (even weird shit like Smile still primarily relied on their vocal harmonies and not, say, their breakdancing abilities). During their peak, this band was thrust forward by Brian's songwriting and inventive arrangements (and later, his pioneering studio wizardry) and their vocal harmonies.  The harmonies are where it's at with these people - none of them were particularly great musicians, but they could outsing damn near all of their doo-wop heroes, and I have to admit that even Mike Love was a great fit as lead singer despite his nasally delivery. Really, though, this is a band that represented their time and place, and once that time was passed they became nothing more than a nostalgia trip. That's how most people should take them...with a few well-chosen albums and a couple of hit packages. For people interested in digging a little deeper, the Beach Boys story seems like a bunch of dead ends that a fanatic could spend a lifetime chasing down, but most people should just steer clear of.  F'r instance, the whole neverending Smile hoody-hoo seems like a big waste of time to me (if it were really all that great, people other than fucking Beach Boys fanatics would have some idea of what it sounds like), and I think their 70's work pretty much deserves to remain obscure. As for the Eighties, well, let's just say that no one came out of that decade in much better artistic condition than Dennis did. And he was a corpse.  Sometimes the little girls do understand, and when they stopped screaming their heads off, it was probably prime time that this band pack up their surfboards and head back to Cali.  They didn't, and now I have to pay for it (heh heh...).

The Beach Boys, in their own way, have influenced pretty much everybody simply because their music has become part of the very fabric of a generation every bit as much as the Beatles and probably quite a bit more than Dylan.  Most people who grew up in the Sixties weren't longhaired potheads...they were buttoned-down squares who liked cars and girls, and the Beach Boys were their poster boys. Any serious discussion of the 1960's completely misses the boat if it doesn't include these dudes (and also misses the boat if it dismisses the early singles and only talks about Pet Sounds for fifteen fucking pages), and their embodiment of an America that everybody wanted to believe was true.


 


Lost and Found (1961-2) - Sundazed 1991

Wotta way to start off a massive series of reviews - dozens and dozens of albums and I get to review a bunch of studio outtakes and screw-up tracks before I even get to slap a bored-ass B-minus onto Surfin' USA. Fanatics'll no doubt love this, getting to hear the band in all their teenage zitfaced glory, doing cut after cut of boring, lifeless songs like 'Surfin' and 'Luau'.  The band's early work was meant to be entirely disposable - as long as you hear it in it's rightful place, either on a side of a 45 or as part of a dozen or so album tracks, 2 minutes of three-chord whitebread doo-wop is nicely digestible, and even more easily forgettable.  Put version after version of these same songs and run them one after another and you get a frightfully good opportunity to see exactly how lacking they really are. Everyone's so freaked to have a broomhandle shoved halfway up their colon by an enraged Murry Wilson that they play and sing all their parts extremely close to the vest.  If that bass plays anything but the root note through almost 40 minutes of this tripe, I'll be a hooters titty. And still they fuck up...these guys go out of tune more often than Keith Richards in a sauna with a balsawood guitar, and you most certainly can't blame the tricky harmonies for it, neither.

You don't need this unless you already have Smile Sessions and Pet Sounds Sessions and love to hear this kind of business...even the 'studio chat' is nothing more than the engineer telling the band what he wants to hear next - no fights, crying, public breakdowns, or primordial versions of 'Kokomo'....nothing.  Buy it if you really have nothing better to do.

Capn's Final Word: Demos are meant to be thrown away, doncha know? I say they coulda remained lost.

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Surfin' Safari - Capitol 1962

I know I shouldn't be analyzing the Beach Boys by what happened musically years after this was recorded, but the simple truth is that these first three or four Beach Boys records simply aren't very good in the grand scheme of things.  Of course, these guys were like 16 years old and had to have Murry Wilson drive them around in the neighborhood station wagon and all that (though age didn't stop young Mike Love from having fathered, like, 3 kids with as many different women by the time he was 18), and Brian was still stuck taking directions from idiotic studio engineers who didn't know Rock from a horseapple, but still...this stuff is so square it renders me impotent just listening to it.  The big hit was 'Surfin' Safari', the first ever teen anthem of the 1960's.  It's effortless and laid back rockin', probably because it used more than a few parts chopped off 'Sweet Little Sixteen', but that's neither here nor there.  'Sixteen' is so funny and well-performed it makes 'Surfari' look like a toddler banging on a toy piano with a GI Joe figure, but this is still darned good.  Brian's first-ever songwriting attempt, 'Surfin', though, is stiffer than Jack Nicholson in the last scene of the Shining, and never in my life have I heard of the 'Surfin' Stomp' dance craze. Perhaps it has something to do with killing off all the soul in the universe and saying lines that sound like 'My surfing nuts are rising'. Heh The other hit is also their first car song, '409', which was later co-opted for a car ad about the highly toxic cleaning agent of the same name. Brian, who didn't really know anything about anything outside of Four Freshmen singles and cheeseburgers, had his gearhead buddy write all the words, which are a helluva lot better than their later songs which were so full of idiotic hot-rod lingo they resembled a Chilton manual.

God, these are the good songs.  Listen, they just weren't ready for prime time yet, and no one other that Murray 'Fuckass' Wilson expected them to be. Imagine what idiotic bullshit they sing about otherwise. Admitting to a crack-esque addiciton to root beer ('Chug-a-lug'). Making fun of Native Americans ('Ten Little Indians'). Conflict resolution ('Heads I Win, Tails You Lose'). Listen, unless you were born a Menonite or spent the last 10 years in a cardboard box, this stuff is so innocent and naive it's going to strike you as near-pathological. Did they really flip a coin to see who would win a fight? Good Christ, what is this, Mormon Planet? Gimme a good sucker-punch anyday over this crazed Boy Scout liberalism. And what the fuck with that root beer shit? I mean, hell, if that song were about pounding Schlitzes and sharpening straight razors outside the bowling alley, I'd be all for it.  But a dude who Forrest Gumps at the fair like a rat in a cocaine experiment is just laughable.  There's a couple of decent Dick Dale-derived surf rockers at the end, and I'm not against the cute little ballad ('Little Miss America'), and the Beach Boys actually covered 'Summertime Blues' before everybody else (including Napalm Death, the fat, dark-haired Indigo Girl that looks like a short-order cook, Wesley Willis, and the George Gershwin Orchestra Featuring G. G. Allin on Lead Anus) took a stab at it and it died a sad, prolonged death.

Hell, why should any twenty-five minute album warrant damn near three hundred words of pointless criticism that could be boiled down to 'These guys sound so young and arrow straight it's hard to take them seriously'? I've reviewed Yes epics longer than this in about two well-pruned sentences, but I go on and on about some stupid root beer song that Brian probably wrote during a bathroom break at the studio in a last-ditch attempt to make the album LP length. I guess I just can't limit my words in that way, though...it's a shame, really.

Capn's Final Word: Like teenagers writing and recording their very first original songs ever. Exactly like that.

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Your Name: K.J. Foxx   Your Rating: C-
Any Short Comments?:    Hey, it's me!  The wierd-ass who gave TYR an A!!!!

Anyways, just wanted to mention that I think you have your surfin' songs confused... <b>Surfin' USA</b> is the 'Sweet little Sixteen' ripoff...  that would come with the next album... Surfin' Safari sounds nothing like the aforementioned Chuck Berry song...unless you're hearing something I'm not... and for giving TYR a D+, I guess you usually do hear things I don't...

As for the rest of the album?  I HATE Early Beach boys music, regardless of whether they are the 'real' representation of the boys...(and you're right, they are.  Their best music came when they pretty much became a Brian Wilson solo act.... although their 70's catalogue is criminally underrated.)

Give me something like 'Friends', where Brian may be fried but Dennis Wilson starts showing us some real talent (not his laughable attempts at drumming we see here) and Mike Love actually singing WITHIN his range...

Good luck on the rest of the reviews, you've got a Looooooooonnnnnngggg way to go!


Surfin' USA- Capitol 1963

Just like if you were to watch the first few episodes of the daring mid-80's CBS Vietnam action-drama Tour of Duty, you might be led to believe that by listening to the first few tracks of Surfin' USA, that you'll be in store for a major jump in quality for the ol' Bee-yatch Boyz from their lackadaisical debut.  Well, you've been wrong before and I'm sure you'll be wrong again, Mr. Attorney General. The gorgeous, soaring harmonies of 'Farmer's Daughter' and the blitzed-out Chuck Berry bop of 'Surfin USA' are this band's first unqualified classics.  They'd done Chucky-boy to death before, but this time around they actually play like they give a fuck that Berryisms are supposed to rock, and little touches like the way Mike's voice grits up when he's pulling up into the chorus or the boogie-woogie Farfisa/twang-tar split solo add just the right ornamentation to make this thing a bit more than the single next door. 'Farmer's Daughter' is simply stunning, enough to make you think that Carl's ragged cover of Dick Dale's tremelo-plucking masterwork 'Misrilu' is actually pretty rad when closer listens belie the fact that he's so unpracticed that he hits bum notes at least half a dozen times and he's double tracked and slap-backed to cover up some of his more heinous mistakes.  What, were they having to sell blood to afford their studio time, or what? Couldn't they send him off in a corner to practice for an hour or two, get him a double milkshake and let him take another stab at it? Aw well...as long as the kick-ass surfin'-girls vocal tracks make a reappearance, I'm willing to forgive anything.

'Stoked'? Another ragged guitar instrumental that tries lamely to steal a bit of the Venture's twangalicious thunder? Arrgghh!!! Carl's guitar tone is decent, and the rhythm section doesn't fuck it up or anything, but this track does very little for a man who relishes both the Rolling Stones instrumental 'Stoned' (not to mention the instrumental  'Now I've Got a Witness' from England's Newest Hitmakers) and Million Dollar Weekend by the 'tures. God knows how I'll feel about the dozen or so Shadows records I've got and have never heard, but I'm sure 'Stoked' isn't going to be in my final Top 5, let's just leave it at that. Carl's just not the kind of guitarist that should be relied upon to carry a big section of the album, you know?

Vocals. This band is about vocals. And just when I think this album has gone to the birds, the first few minutes of 'The Lonely Sea' come along and cool me down like the dark side of the pillow. I can do without the 'incantation' spoken word cheezoid section, but the rest is creamy goodness. 

Car songs. 'Shut Down' isn't their best, but again it beats the living Pauly Shore out of '409', with it's staccato shag, and even includes some of the most hilariously out-of-tune Mike Love sax-honking outside their live album for some comic relief.

Lame songs that mispronounce 'Noble Surfer' so it sounds like 'No bull! Surf Her!', like suddenly we've transported ourselves to a University of Oklahoma frat party circa fall 1995 and some unsuspecting young freshman coed has just passed out naked in the pool? You gotta be shittin' me, bone slice dawg G!

Godawful track, but then so is 'Honky Tonk', the THIRD instrumental on the album.  Jesus, Brian, your friends go off to the Army or something and can't give you any more drag-racin' lingo to steal lines from? What's with all the stupid jam tracks? I know what's with them...Dennis plays the same goddamn drum pattern on each one! How about that for a reason to live, eh? So's your highschool dropout drum-amateur can get a few more runthroughs of Trapset Fundamentals Number 12, 16, and 23?  Jesus, I may be smoking crack, but there's even another instrumental on Surfin USA, this one called 'Surf Jam', and it's actually good. Honkin' saxes and guitar overdubs! It's, you know, suspenseful and stuff, like Greg Brady doesn't know that the amulet around his neck is actually cursed, and that he's likely to get thrown from his surfboard and totally ruin any of the Brady girls' chances of losing their virginity to a large, drunken Polynesian pimp while Carol and Mike are away at the luau both admiring the male fire-dancer's tight, well-formed buttocks. Anyway, enough homoeroticism in one sentence already...I'm beginning to wonder if I ought to be exfoliating or not. Anyway, the guitar playing is like 10 times better than anything else on the record. Still, four instrumentals in thirty minutes is a pretty stupid production choice. I could be wrong, and in fact I'm sure I am wrong, because there's actually FIVE MOTHERFUCK CHRIST BALLS DICK WHORE SNOT BUBBLE INSTRUMENTALS ON THIS ALBUM!!! HOLY FART NOSTRILS! THIS IS THE WORST ALBUM PLANNING SINCE FIONA APPLE STUCK THAT MORONIC, PRETENTIOUS, ENDLESS TITLE ON HER SECOND ALBUM THAT NOBODY BOUGHT!! AND, OF COURSE, DARE TO BE STUPID BY WEIRD AL YANKOVIC THAT TOTALLY TOOK HIS PROMISING CAREER AS A KNACK COVER BAND WITH A TASTE FOR ACCORDION HORNINESS AND THREW IT STRAIGHT UP (Dan Rather)'S POOPER!!

Okay, I just can't get over it. Five instrumentals in twenty-five minutes is a horrible decision that set this band back to pre-debut levels of competency and wipes out whatever advances in songwriting and instrumental prowess they'd made in the meantime. This album goes from being a potential breakthrough to just another filler-loaded label ripoff like those that would plague this band throughout the decade.  Get the title track on a compilation and hopefully find 'Farmer's Daughter' on a boxed set somewhere.

Capn's Final Word: Even if they're just about cars, girls, and surfing, you gotta sing 'em! Without it, they're just more demo tapes!

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Surfer Girl - Capitol 1963

'Surfer Girl', I'll admit it, makes me want to put my head down on the shoulder of some dreamy, sandy-haired stud of a high school football player.  Not some icky lineman, but maybe a hunk of a cornerback or something, just nuzzle my face into his letter jacket and smell his manliness and wish he would take me away from the crowd around the bonfire, back behind the bleachers where he'll tell me about how fast his car is, and maybe if he looks at me just right I'll let him put his hand on my breast for a minute, over my cardigan, of course...

Shit, was that in my 'outside' voice? That goddamn thing's been getting me in trouble ever since I decided to tell Hillary Rodham Clinton I saw her husband biting through chicks brastraps at the Coyote Ugly bar in Austin, Texas and drinking Prairie Fires out of their cleavage until he passed out on the UT Ladies Golf Team bus wearing only a lobster bib and a 'I Had My 21st Birthday At Brothers' baseball cap. I don't even care who knows it, because 'Surfer Girl' is as pretty as a set of tits and twice as warm, about as close to surfer love-nirvana as a set of five eunuchs will ever be able to get.  Hell, count this as Brian's first ballad masterpiece, and though it still owes more than a smidge to doo-woppy soul like the Platters than to any original vision, it shows a subtlety that the first two albums never knew.  Granted, it's goddamned difficult to be subtle when you're twiddling your guitar at a bazillion miles an hour like Les Paul having an epileptic fit, but that's the danger of the territory.  Luckily, we're saved from the Venture disease this time around, but unfortunately the pendulum done swung too far the other way...now the vocals choke out the music until it's almost completely gone.  Listen to 'Catch A Wave', which even has some cool harps 'n' shit to keep it interesting instrumentally, but they're so inexplicably low in the mix you have to jam the headphone speaker into your ear so hard your skull begins to creak under the pressure just to hear it.  The same goes for the orchestras on the ballds 'Surfer Moon' (One of Brian's first compositions along with 'Surfin'...this ain't no 'Surfer Girl', but it's sure better than fucking 'Surfin', which makes surfing sound about as interesting as having a conversation with Hilary Rodham Clinton) and the gently plucked guitars on 'In My Room', which I guess I'm supposed to make a big deal out of because it's the first Beach Boys song that's not about cars, girls, surfing, or scat porn, except for 'Chug-a-lug' and 'Ten Little Indians', but those are such retarded song no one remembers them except for me anyway. Whateverhoo, 'In My Room' is only like 10 seconds long anyway, but I guess it's just as gorgeous as 'Surfer Girl' except for the fact that it's just Brian venting a few of his psychoses and finishing up with more questions than answers...who exactly does he tell his secrets to? If he's locked out his fears, I'm assuming he's locked out everyone else too, so is there someone there in his head with him?  Is that why he's not afraid even when he's alone, because he's NOT ACTUALLY ALONE? Heh...nope, he's just a kid with some various self-esteem and Daddy issues, and instead of screwing chicks like Mike or hiding under his bed and eating pie like Carl or being extremely boring like Al, he writes songs that lots of people enjoyed, and the pressure started to build.  But we'll talk more of that later. Right now he was still young and easily influenced, and willing to put out half-assed albums like this one.

Okay, so I lied for like the zillionth time this review...there's an instrumental, called 'Rocking Surfer', and if you think that's an original title just wait til you hear the music, it'll kill you! But for anyone who isn't so naive, it's a piece of shit that only reinforces my conviction that, 'Surf Jam' aside, these guys have as much business doing instrumentals as Mike Love has giving spiritual advice to people. Otherwise, we're back in the same groove we'll see repeated over and over and over again before Brian finally bursts through the ceiling and starts making the records he was built to make. The filler all sounds like stuff we've heard on the first two albums, the covers aren't close in quality to their more mature originals, and there isn't much of a more graphic example of the Beach Boys' teenage cluelessness than the comatose 'Our Car Club'.  I suppose this one's better than Surfin USA, since they didn't waste all that time on Carl's showoff tracks, and the ballads are sure good...but I'm not convinced yet.

Capn's Final Word: Brian learns to ballad, but not to challenge the band's ideas of what an album should be like.

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Little Deuce Coupe - Capitol 1963.

Singling out cars from girls and surfing makes for a concept album that's 90% compilation and about 20% good.  I suppose if you're a real-life motorhead you'll dig Encyclopedia Hotroddica songs like 'Little Deuce Coupe', which runs down his car's mods like a fucking Speed channel special (Updated lyrics courtesy of the Capn 'I got all the Chinese stickers I can fit on the body, it sits two millimeters off the ground and has a tailpipe the size of a Peterbilt'!). I think is damn near unlistenable, especially the 'I got the pink slip, daddy!' snotty little boast, plus the fact that it's really just 'Shut Down' with a couple of different notes. Otherwise, we hear such spicy metaphors as car-as-girl ('Ballad of Ol' Betsey', the hilariously clueless 'Cherry, Cherry Coupe', which begs for the line 'Get to pop her in all four gears!') girl-as-car ('Car Crazy Cutie', which would be hilarious only if it talked about how nothing gets her pussy hotter than the sticky feel of a genuine naugahyde seat cover as it bonds to her naked, moist buttocks.) cars-as-excuse-for-very-homoerotic-male-bonding-sessions ('Our Car Club', which I have to remind you, makes initiates go through a 'very rough' trial period, sucked on Surfin' Safari and sucks now, which also goes for '409', which is as loose as a 3-week old corpse).  Of particularly funny note is 'No Go Showboat', where the guys defensively boast that their car is a real looker, though it gets wasted in the quarter mile against an ice cream truck.  Never before has performance incompetence been praised so highly, at least since Motley Crue's 'Ten Seconds to Love' from Shout At The Devil.

And talking about boasts, I've always felt 'Be True To Your School' is completely unconvincing... even the 'rah rah rah rah' backing vocals sound lazy and halfhearted, and besides, were people so naïve as to actually like high school back in those days? And why exactly is this included here? There ain't no cars in the English class, dunderheads! Well, I guess all of those folks who desperately want to attribute the Beach Boys with some sort of innovation beyond 'they wrote a bunch of songs about cars, girls, and surfing' really want to make the claim that this is the 'first concept album ever', which I, of course, think is a load of donkey moo. Little Richard was a concept album about fucking, and it came out in 1959, Elvis's Christmas Album from 1957 was about Christmas, and Chuck Berry's Chuck Berry Is On Top from 1959 is about jerking off while watching girls pee. I guess nobody, even Brian Wilson, is perfect. And I so wanted my own crazy, fat little perfect pop genius to cuddle close to my heart!

Anyway, despite all inclinations to the contrary, there are some decent songs on here, but I'm sure you can find them other places.  As for more original tunes, you're mostly outta business. I guess it's only a few months until Shut Down Vol. 2 and I get my fix.

Capn's Final Word: Conceptualize love songs to your crankshaft. Clunky.

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Shut Down Vol. 2 - Capitol 1964

Another phony record album, this time trying to cash in on the success of Little Deuce Coupe, their last somewhat phony record album, or maybe of Shut Down Vol. 1, which was an earlier compilation which even featured people who weren't the Beach Boys (which begs me to mention that there were, around this time, plenty of people who weren't Beach Boys who actually were Beach Boys, like Glen 'Can't Walk the Wichita Line, Man!' Campbell, who now looks worse than Brian did during his early-80's crackpot nadir. The Beach Boys seem to have taken a few steps into the Sixties with this release, as their death grip on the beach continues to loosen This one, however, has at least two all-time classic singles, while Deuce only had one. 'Fun Fun Fun' is a bald-faced (and no, I'm not talking about Mike Love right now) ripoff of 'Johhny B. Goode', but the lyrics are, well, fun...some chick borrows her dad's T-bird and goes jacking around the neighborhood, farming front yards and smashing small children flatter than Claire Danes, until Ward Cleaver comes along and calls her naughty and takes the keys back. Hell, it's good, but 'Don't Worry Baby' is fucking fantastic, Brian's first real attempt at the wall-o-sound Spector thingamabob.  This is the high peak of Beach Boys doo-wop, with tricky little rhythms on the falsetto lead line and some extremely beautiful lyrics that seem to go beyond high school puppy love into something more...you know, universal. It's a foreshadowing of the big bout of collective growing up everyone would have to do in the next five years, the ensuing feelings of disconnection and desire for shelter and reassurance a lot of people felt. I'd also like to report, on a lighter note, that this song racily mentions 'making love' at a time when the Boys were still supposedly buzz-cut neuters without a prurient interest in their hearts.  Another illusion falls!

So the rest of Son of Shut Up is rather half-assed, but no worse than what the Beach Boys have been trundling out since their debut.  Of course it's obvious to everyone who wasn't a record executive in the early 1960's, but people are just not able to generate a dozen or so great tracks every few months, what with endless touring in unheated buses and all the other crap that went along with being a successful teenager group back then.  As a result you get albums like Surfin' USA, which had almost half a dozen instrumentals on it, and Shut Down Vol. 2, which has unconscionable filler like 'Cassius Love Vs. Sonny Wilson' and 'Denny's Drums' clogging it all up. The real problem is that the secondary songs, meaning those that aren't singles or covers or space-filler instrumentals and novelty tracks, just haven't been all that great yet.  'The Warmth Of The Sun' is a rare gem, a ballad nearly as pretty as 'Don't Worry Baby', but otherwise these tracks seem stamped out of the songwriting machine without so much as a second look. F'r instance, I haven't seen a big advancement between, say, 'Heads I Win, Tails You Lose' and 'In The Parking Lot'...sure the latter one is better produced, but it's still just as corny of a song, and still just as easily forgotten. Space is still clogged up by one of the lamest, most bleach-white covers of 'Louie Louie' I've ever heard, crap instrumentals like 'Shut Down, Vol. II', which wouldn't even make a particularly titillating backing track, much less hold my interest as an instrumental, and stupid high school songs that can't be fooling anyone anymore ('Rah Rah Pom Pom Girl', which has about four seconds of coolness during the handclap parts). Are we supposed to have our souls ravaged by the raw honesty of 'Don't Worry Baby' and then buy into the story of a girl who wants to run for school office because it'll 'sure make her telephone ring'? Similarly so-innocent-they're-pathological moments abound, and I begin to wonder how long these guys can keep up this teenager facade. They were all pretty much at least 18 by then, and apparently weren't all lily-white like their reputations would have you believe. Hell, wasn't Brian married already? And didn't she know he'd turn out to be a whale-sized cokehead and porn addict who would hide whenever the pool guy came around, and that their kids would later go on the be responsible for Wilson Phillips? I suppose some people just don't have the stomach for suicide, huh? Sometimes you have to take one for the team, especially when your team is the Human Race.

Capn's Final Word: This carelessness is getting old...two more good songs wrapped around a shoddy core.

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All Summer Long - Capitol 1965.

I have a hunch there's some growth going on here. Then again, I have to think about it, which probably means there really isn't any. I will say that while the filler is really offensive ('Our Favorite Recording Sessions' is like ''Cassius Love Vs. Sonny Wilson' except they don't even make an attempt to be funny, or surprising, or anything but absolutely clumsy and irritating), there's considerably less of it than we've seen. I still think that Brian could've done better with his consistency than he has, but mostly I just feel he's cut the level of crap to a more manageable level. It's got the fantastic 'I Get Around' I already mentioned (the Beach Boys catalogue has the most overlap between albums outside of some soul acts...James Brown must've put different versions of 'Please Please Please' on over a dozen releases over the years, and that's not an exaggeration) as well as the short, nostalgic title track that somehow captures the waning days of summer and the creeping depression of an oncoming fall like few other songs (hell...when I was in St. Petersburg, as soon as the sun started going down earlier than 8 pm I thought life was about to come to an end because the winter there was like a trip to the Gulag).  Lesser known hits like 'Hushabye' (pretty, but not as good as the likes of the highly like-minded 'Don't Worry Baby'), 'Little Honda' (despite essentially being a Honda motorbike commercial and having one of the more mindless choruses in the band's history), and the goddamn-cheating-cunt breakup song 'Wendy', and the chancey surf anthem 'Don't Back Down' also contribute to a sense of quality on this record.  Brian's slowly but surely expanding his palatte of chord sequences (there's nothing here that much resembles Chuck Berry, for example) and fresh vocal harmonies

Still, put this up next to A Hard Day's Night or the first Animals record and you'll be amazed as to how lacking this album feels in comparison.  Perhaps it was simply because Brian was in charge of everything besides the odd lyric here and there (which Mike Love was extremely fast to take credit for, as if someone would want to actually fess up to writing 'Do You Remember') and he was being driven like a Scottish pack horse to keep his production high and within the formula. Mike Love, especially, resisted violently any attempt Brian made to 'fuck with the formula', and didn't understand anything that didn't fit into his narrow little jock mindset. All this leads to compromise and Brian did what he had to do to get his albums out on time. The space filler is still so blatantly obvious, even in the face of higher-quality product from overseas that spat on instrumentals and blooper tracks as ridiculous wastes of space. Is there any other way to describe 'Carl's Big Chance' (hint: he blows it) or 'Our Favorite Recording Sessions'? I can stomach a 'Surfer Girl' carbon copy like 'Girls On The Beach', because it's a legitimate song (albeit one I've heard better before), but to waste time like they do isn't even funny anymore.  They've only got 25 minutes to fill on an album...it seems like they could see fit to fill it with halfway decent songs instead of this disrespectable fucking about. The writing's on the wall...if they were to continue to release half-assed albums like this one, they'd soon be dusted by their British competition. But it'd still be some time before they learn their lesson.  'I Get Around' is one of their most infectious singles, with really impressive interplay between the quick, rhythmic background vocals and Brian's long, spirited falsetto leads, and the Boys never swung harder than they do on the 'I'm gettin' bugged drivin' up and down the same old strip' section.  This, I'd say, is one of the Beach Boys first truly original singles, one of the first that doesn't sound ripped from the songbooks of Chuck Berry and the Four Freshmen. Then there's all that stuff about longing for change and slowly growing out of their insular little town mindset, but let's leave that for the therapists in the audience.  Enough of that faggy self-reflection bullshit, I want more songs about hemis and four-barrel carbs and Posi-Traction rear ends and all that!

Capn's Final Word: Tiny forward steps and some of the same old irritations. Watching the Beach Boys develop is as frustrating as rooting for the Kansas City Royals. The improvements make the slapdash filler pieces seem all the more hateful.

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Concert - Capitol 1964..

An interesting release as it is the first of the live albums by the young white kids (none of whom took any lessons from James Brown, who did it earlier and far better...take a look at the first Live At The Apollo album for a primer on how to really release an early 60's live album), long before the Kinks or Stones released their own scream dreams.  Apparently the girls weren't quite as wild back in 1964 as they would be a few years later when presented with the far worse-complexioned Brits. Here, the screams seem to get turned on and off like a lightswitch. and most of the time there's an odd silence as if we're at a Japanese baseball game or something.  But then Carl shakes his hips or Mike Love makes his toupee stand on end by wiggling his ears and all girlie hell breaks loose for another two seconds until Murry glowers and threatens to make each and every one of them take a crap on his kitchen table until they shut the fuck up again.  Strange stuff, but still fascinating, which is a fuckload more than I can say about the performance itself.  The band barrels through all their recent hits ('I Get Around', 'Little Deuce Coupe', you know the drill) in capable but highly dull versions, mixing things up by including a bunch of idiotic covers that never get any better than Dennis' feisty grunt through 'The Wanderer' or a punker-fast version of 'Johnny B. Goode' (that's so hopped up it makes the Sex Pistols version sound like Vanilla Fudge), and are often worse, like Mike's insufferable and unnecessary 'Monster Mash'.  They also include crappy, long-forgotten originals like 'Hawaii' instead of perfectly good stuff like 'Don't Worry Baby' (at least they have 'In My Room' as Brian's spotlight track, as he'd soon quit touring altogether).  The recording quality is predictably horrendous, and only rarely do we get to have a taste of the band's instrumental abilities, which are admittedly better than I expected.  Mostly, I have no reason to enjoy this any more than the Beach Boys other ripoff releases as there's still a strong feeling that they could've done this much better than they did, with only a few more moments of consideration. I guess when you're releasing new albums every couple of months or so, you have to cut all that crap out and get the product out the door. It just all goes to the general sense of what could have been, if they'd have slowed down and taken a breath for a second instead of letting this willy-nilly flood of releases continue unabated.

Capn's Final Word: Another missed opportunity to set the bar with an original idea. Coulda been...coulda been....

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Beach Boys Christmas Album - Capitol 1964.

Given a respectable grade because of singing ability alone.  In my grand pantheon of rock music styles, Christmas albums rank somewhere below 'prog-punk' as painful listening experiences, if not actually as low as Christian rap music, which lies somewhere around listening to the sound of a 1/2-inch masonry bit being drilled into my left temple.  See, I used to work in drug stores growing up, the kind of lame little chain places that sell cheap, overpriced shit that comes shipped to the store dumped in a big mass into unmarked, dented cardboard boxes that probably came from other stores after sitting on the shelves for years and years.  Anyway, the worst time of year was, of course, Christmas shopping season, both due to the inhuman nastiness of the customers, the slush and sand and shit that constantly covered the floors (which were my job to keep mopped clean), and the neverending loop of 'classic' Christmas songs that tormented my days and nights.  We only had a couple of cassette tapes to last us the entire season, and one inevitably decided to succumb to self-loathing and shred itself against the play head, leaving us with one cassette to be played and replayed hour after hour, day after day. I still can't hear 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' and not have the smell of cheap potpourri and road slop come flooding back in a fit of nausea. For over ten years now, and probably forever more, I will associate Christmas tunes with Friday nights spent staring at the clock waiting for Aunt Edith down there in the candle aisle to finish groping every last glitter-encrusted knickknack within the grasp of her Cenozoic, lobster-like claws and go shuffling off into the night back to her sarcophagus, leaving me to mourn the loss of another precious moment in a rapidly depleting youth that could've been spent repeatedly fucking my hornball girlfriend on her living room couch while watching Life of Brian for the thirtieth time. Can you fathom the amazing depths of my resentments?

The Beach Boys' Christmas Album is an odious money-grubber that I suppose appeals to the kind of people who voluntarily listen to holiday songs, having determined that hearing them nonstop in the mall, supermarket, and on television just isn't enough to cover up the fact that the holidays are just an excuse to guilt-trip people into spending gobs of money they don't have for people they don't really like, driving them into debt which lasts long after the next Holly Jolly Christmas comes rolling around.  For what it is, it's decent...Brian has nothing to do with the orchestral arrangements, which seem to be taken wholesale from the Walt Disney School of Orchestration, but the songs are about what you'd expect.  They Don't Fuck With The Formula, which is probably good, since Christmas songs are at least not quite as revolting when they're played straight and not 'poppified'. You got everything from 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' to a spritely 'Merry Christmas, Baby' (the best thing here), to an 'Auld Lang Syne' to help you attempt to remember the incoherent lyrics before you go to your New Year's Eve party and make a mumbling ass out of yourself like everyone else. This is just not for me, and the fact that this was so obviously released to raise a little more cash from the group before their hits were to presumably dry up as the surf craze waned makes me want to slap it around a little. Completists, masochists, and unreconstructed sentimentalists apply within.  Everyone else should just get drunk on the egg nog.

Capn's Final Word: It may be Santa's bag, but it ain't mine. Good singing, though.

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Today! - Capitol 1965

Finally, a Beach Boys album that feels like a real piece of work rather than a Dagwood sandwich of singles, half-arsed originals that rewrite old singles, covers, instrumentals, and studio-chatter novelty tracks like they've been milking for half a dozen albums already.  I suppose it was around this time that Brian finally flipped out bigtime and got out of his touring commitments for good (over 10 years at least), giving him more time in the studio to do the thing only he can do...make increasingly complex pop melodies in increasingly complex studio settings, and the effects are immediate.  None of these songs is trivial, and the arrangements are often mind-bogglingly intricate piles of overdubs, horns, and massed vocal harmonies that sound thick, like Jennifer Lopez's engorged pussy lips, except without all that pesky tuna fish smell. Brian's apparently onto some entirely new record production trip (aka marijuana) here that not many people have been willing to embark upon (Spector, obviously, and perhaps a Motown dude or two, but certainly not George Martin, at least not yet), and despite operating without either a roadmap or a clue, he succeeds brilliantly.  Though this album has a distinct lack of familiar hits (I doubt many people count 'Dance, Dance, Dance' among the most easily remembered Beach Boys songs, the 'Help Me, Rhonda' is a lame LP-only version, and I mostly know 'Do You Wanna Dance' from the kick-butt Ramones cover version) that may drag it down in some people's view, I see this as a much more accessible listen than Pet Sounds (if not ultimately as rewarding), and a much better introduction to Brian Wilson's brilliance as the threads connecting him to his basic rock-n-roll past have not yet been severed.  Listen, each one of these songs is an achievement at least on the level of 'Wendy' or 'Hushabye' from the last studio LP...and the lamest track here (besides yet another goddamn studio chatter take called 'Bull Session With 'Big Daddy'') is the bizarre album take of 'Help Me Rhonda', which witnesses one of Brian's few outright failures in his studio experimentation kick.  The man keeps fiddling with the sliders, causing nasty dropouts and false-fades.  For someone used to listening to the much more conventionally mixed single version or even the goofy Party! live-in-the-studio one, this one sounds more like an outtake than a legitimate release.

Otherwise, it's good just to sit back and become enveloped in the booming percussion and chiming guitar tones that Brian conjures up. Much is made of the sequence of ballads on the second side that begins with 'Please Let Me Wonder' (which is about smoking weed and daydreaming, by the way) to 'In The Back Of My Mind' and how this was such a major move for a band who was built on surf rockers and STP oil treatment, and it is.  But it's a sneaky, insinuating move rather than something that jumps up and down and screams 'I'm a MAJOR artistic achievement! Praise me!' like Pet Sounds does.  And that's sort of a relief....these songs aren't generally better than Pet Sounds is, but there's still a certain lightheartedness that is very charming and easy to gulp down compared to the latter albums Big Statements. And I'll tell ya, I probably get an equal amount of entertainment value between the two. And also like PS, I don't think I'm necessarily taken by any of these ballads individually (though 'Kiss Me Baby' always strikes me as one pretty little prissy), but I'm sure able to listen to this album as many times as I want and never get tired of it, either.

What I'm trying to say in such a convoluted, unexpressive and completely nonfunny manner (I've been about as funny as a Craig Kilborn monologue today) is that while Today is the first Beach Boys album without any glaring mistakes (besides 'Bullshit Session', but that's obvious) and while it isn't quite to the level of gravity that marks Pet Sounds, it's in the same ballpark, and the fact that no one analyzes each and every last note of this one but it's almost as wonderful makes it something of an underdog. And we all love underdogs, don't we? Karate Kid, anyone? The Killing Fields? Rocky? Behind the Green Door? Dude, I was sure Marylin Chambers'd never make that black guy with the face paint orgasm all over her face, but she finally did! It just goes to show that no matter how hard something may be,  if you keep trying, sooner or later you'll be wiping some random dude's love spunk off your chin!

Capn's Final Word: A solid piece, quiet and unassuming, comes flowing from Brian's pen. The genius makes an inauspicious debut.

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Summer Days and Summer Nights - Capitol 1965

Backsliding back into novelty slogs about amusement parks and the Mormon Promised Land sure can kill a man's buzz when he's still feeling the effects of Today!'s underrated beauty.  But I guess we can view Bummer Days (and Bummer Nights) as the last gasp of the Scroogey Sixties Beach Boys, summing up their first four-odd years with an album every bit as lightweight as their first half dozen raining wheel releases were, and with that comes both killer (good) singles ('Califfornia Girls', 'Help Me Rhonda', 'California Girls', and 'California Girls') and killer (murderous) filler ('Amusement Parks USA', 'Salt Lake City', both of which sound like they were conceived as advertisements).  I'm just unable to get over the inconsistency of this album in the face of Brian's continued development, and the excellent job the band did to make the last record such a unified, erm...unit. This is by no means a bad album, but considering where they should've been, including retreads like the single version of 'Help Me Rhonda' (the highly inferior album version ready part of Today!) and a cover of the Ronettes 'Then He Kissed Me' retitled 'Then I Kissed Her' strikes me as somewhat weak.  The Al Jardine-sung 'The I Kissed Her' seems like nothing more than Brian showing off to his idol Spector that he already knows all the secret Wall-Of-Shit production tricks and is pulling ahead into uncharted waters full of sea nymphs and Here Thar Be Monsteres. Talk about hanging on to your ego...I dunno about Spector, but if some snot-nose little creep from a surf band started making creepily authentic sounding versions of my biggest hits, I'd load my Luger. Of course Phil would probably empty it again into the nearest female, but that's him. He's been a speedfreak for over 40 years now. So he shot his girlfriend...whaddya expect? That jaw-clencher shouldn't even be allowed to have shoelaces, much less be walking around unsupervised like he did. That's one thing Brian can always take pride in...as screwed up as he was, he was never any crazier than fucking Phil Spector.

Now, I heard somewhere highly unreliable that Brian was already working on Pet Sounds at this time, and was forced to take time out from recording the 419th glockenspiel overdub on 'Caroline, No' to rush out this album to beat some , which would explain why this album has such a cheap feel.  I mean, 'And Your Dreams Come True', pretty as it is, sounds like nothing more than a vocal overdub track left to die on the side of the road by the Pet Sounds bandwagon. It's not a song, it's gumby, dammit!  And 'Summer Love Means New Love' revisits the bad old days of the Carl instrumental ripoff, though I'm happy to report that the man's skills have improved greatly since his days of mashing potatoes through 'Misrulou'.  Also on the more suspicious side is 'I'm Bugged At My Old Man', a throwaway novelty doo-wop track about parental tyrrany that's supposed to eek laffs out of lines like 'he covered up my windows (oooh, it's dark!)', but it's a little too creepy considering Murry Wilson's somewhat questionable parenting skills.  The very idea that Brian might be writing from experience seems to sap all the funny out of the thing. Maybe it's just me, but ever since I saw Capturing the Friedmans I'm a bit hypersensitive to passive-aggressive families that approach their disturbed parents with the sarcasm of Roseanne Barr and the flinching subjugation of a Trojan slave.

Anyway, I'm mostly pissed at what Summer Days could have been more than I am disappointed in what it turned out to be.  No one should rightfully dislike an album that has something as perfect as 'California Girls' on it, one of the most marvelous pop songs of Brian's career (besides being one of his personal favorites), and firmly, brilliantly, right in the Beach Boys' comfortable range.  It's one step closer to the whacked excellence of 'Good Vibrations', but didn't take near as much effort to complete.  While 'Vibrations' was crafted, toiled over, and bled for, 'California Girls' was easy and relaxed as the summer breeze. Still, I can't regard this album as one of the Beach Boys bigger accomplishments, mostly because of the same old problems that have plagued them from the beginning...overzealous management and greedy record company demands. It should be remembered that Brian Wilson (and the others, I have to admit) were still being worked like Mexican seamstresses to keep pumping out the product, up to two big studio albums and one live album in 1965 alone. Perhaps from this perspective, we can view Today! for what it is...an aberration from the usual slapdash quality of recordmaking that Summer Days more closely resembles. 'California Girls' is the 'big single' that takes the hallowed place of a 'Fun Fun Fun' or a 'Surfin USA', as the flagship song on the record, when Today! didn't have one (and didn't need one). This is the end of an era for the band, though, as they would never again be the fresh-faced young hitmakers we've been so impressed and frustrated by for the last few years.  From here on out lies crazed brilliance, crazed mediocrity, and, mostly...simple mediocrity. The beach is mostly closed, or just a faded memory. 

 Capn's Final Word:  Back to the old days and the old ways for one last fling in the sun and too much filler diller. Say goodbye to summer.

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David     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: What? No mention of 'Let Him Run Wild'? What are you - some kind of PUDWHACKER?

One of the most beautiful songs in Brian's long, deranged ouvre' and you neglect to appropriately fellate it - in a purely textual sense? Are you out of your mind?

Spot on with everything else, though.

 


Party! - Capitol 1965

Almost the very last of the evil moneygrubbers (there's still the undefendable Stack-O-Tracks, which was probably only released because Brian wanted everyone to hear his bewilderingly complex backgrounds), Party! was conceived, recorded, and released in a very short time smack dab in the middle of the endless Pet Sounds sessions as a means of blowing off steam and making a few extra bucks for Capitol so they'd quit breathing down Brian's neck about how amazingly goddamn long the new studio album was taking.  Well, nothing pacifies like a cheap one-off that sells well, and it's possible to say that without Party!, there probably wouldn't have been a Pet Sounds.  And that's probably quite a blessing, because there sure ain't another reason most people can find to sit through this thing twice. The idea is that the Boys bring a bunch of their girlie pals into the studio, drink a bunch of alcoholic beverages, malt and otherwise, sit in a nice circle and sing some folky songs of the day en masse as a couple of them play acoustic guitars, tambourines, and skinflutes (Mike). They really do this, it's pretty clear, because no one would intentionally overdub such idiotic banter as what's included here.  I tell you what...no matter how many times I've gotten ridiculously hankered at a social situation, I'd never think screaming out 'RIGHT!!' after every earnest line my pal Al Jardine sings of 'Times They Are A-Changin' or yacking out the 'Hey!' in 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' is the height of hilarity, as these mental defects apparently think it is.  Not since the last time I heard a Dixie Chicks have I heard a more hysterical group of whacked-out chicks more misguidedly convinced of their own brilliance as these twats on display here.  I mean, you can have fun and whoop and drink screwdrivers and give Dennis a sloppy blowjob behind the drum screen all you want, but at least have a little respect for the songs, eh?  Anyway, you can't really blame these morons, because it's not like the Beach Boys are showing their own material a whole lot of respect, either.  The 'Medley' is 'hilariously' 'sung' in a stilted highbrow Back East accent by Mike that shows their sense of humor is about as thick as Love's hairline. In fact, the only track that is given a mostly decent treatment is the cover of 'Barbara Ann', which most people still refer to as 'Bah Bah Booey'. 

Come on, concept or not, there's no way in my right mind I would record and release people sounding this brainless over performances this pointlessly sloppy. I suppose this was meant to show how 'fun' and 'spontaneous' the Beach Boys are, and in a sort of low-tech 60's way put you right in the room sitting next to your idols, but the joke wears thin quick.  What's not a joke is that this ended up outselling Pet Sounds, which is sort of like 1941 having more of a box office take than ET, if you want a rough-and-rougher example. . All this again confirms my conviction that more people thought they were cool and enlightened back in the Sixties than actually were...well, they get one last hurrah because from here on out the teenyboppers and Top 40 simpletons had nothing more to do with this band.

Capn's Final Word:  Mindless strumming and random yelling and giggling. It could be a Sebadoh album.

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Pet Sounds - Capitol 1966.

Everything it's supposed to be - a gorgeous pinnacle of the artistic arc that began with the first time Brian put pen to paper to write 'Surfin', something more than simply rock 'n' roll...this is pop music taken to a compositional extreme that few have attempted and no one has succeeded in recreating.  It squeezes every last bit of potential out of a recording studio packed with session musicians, taking what his rivals and friends had pioneered and jacking it up a half dozen notches.  It's the product of a boy grown into a man, sincerely concerned about what was happening to the world around him (including his often troubled marriage) and the confusing changes happening inside himself.  But it's also draggy and slow, the product of toil and perfectionism over spontaneity and enthusiasm that seems to insinuate more than it actually says.  And me being the mental midget I am, my favorite song on here is 'Sloop John B', by far.  I respect this album more than I love or even like it, and you can talk until you turn blue and pass out, I'm not going to be convinced that this album was as influential as everyone always says it is. 

I'm not any more convinced by the melodies here than I am the ones on the second side of Today!, and those of you trundling out the tiresome old argument about how complicated the chord structures are on this album, save it.  Jazz guys play this kind of shit all the time, especially the bebop kind, and pop songwriters like Burt Bacharach had been making strikingly similar music for decades before this came out.  Sure, be impressed by Brian's craft, boundless imagination, and persistence in the face of resistance from his bandmates, management, father, and record company, but don't attribute Brian with reinventing the wheel. All it takes is some practice and the right kinds of piano lessons to write songs this complicated. Finally, most damning of all, though there's parts of it that I can't deny having a strong effect on me emotionally, I really don't think this is that much more effective on an emotional level than a lot of the  work Brian had already produced.  Pow.  This wasn't anything new, it was just conceived more clearly and given the amount of time necessary to really pull into itself like it should.  Hell, if Today! hadn't been rushed out in a few months, I say it could have been even better than Pet Sounds, but that's like speculating that if Bob Dylan had finished college, he'd have been an even greater lyricist than he was.  No one'll ever know.

You can stop reading now if you want a particularly balanced review of this record, because you won't get one here...I'm awarding this one an A+ out of respect for it's accomplishments, but in my personal estimation I get about an A's worth of enjoyment out of it.   But let's not get ahead of ourselves...this is an important record that lots of people have a lot invested into, and deserves to be handled with care.  It's not my fault it bores the crap out of me.

Just foolin'.

For those of you who are coming to this page deciding which Beach Boys albums to buy, which is the whole point anyway, I'd say DON'T GET THIS ALBUM FIRST.  You'll either be thrown completely or will be disappointed that the other studio albums don't sound like this one.  Instead, get a compilation. I usually don't recommend hits packages, but in the case of the Beach Boys I have to say that Endless Summer is such a perfect collection of their early hits, and much more representative of their true influence on pop and alternative music to come, plus being shitloads better than any of their original records (something I would never say about Beatles '62-66 versus their concurrent albums).  As for comparisons with their contemporaries, I think it goes without saying that the Beatles equaled or bettered this release more than a few times over the course of their career, especially with Revolver, an album which makes Pet Sounds appear dowdy and unimaginative when you see the dazzling variety of music the Beatles were able to produce at the same time (and without the added pressure of feeling they were making a 'big' album...according to them it was just another day in the studio.). Brian was writing variations on the same sound, over and over and over.  The Beatles were producing as many different approaches to the pop song as they could come up with. 

Alright, now to the matter at hand - Pet Sounds.  This was Brian's baby, the other members having spent This album set some sort of cost records back when it was first recorded because Brian spent months and months building layers of session orchestras on top of some basic rhythm and guitar tracks, as well as all manner of various other instrumentation (glockenspiels, wood blocks, chimes) and gimmicky sound effects (his 'pet sounds'...Coke cans, bicycle bells, Carl's skull) that people love to talk about when describing this record.  Listen, if you're impressed by the fact that he used a Coke can as a percussion instrument, apparently you've never spent a few minutes around a toddler.  I'm more impressed that he was able to preserve all of these takes of wildly varying timbre, volume, and vintage and mix them all down to just four measly tracks, besides conceiving of the arrangements in the first place.  How exactly did he know he wanted the bass clarinet to come in on the off-beat of two, and the banjo to accent the middle note of the triad, the harpsichord to match the second voice in the background, etc.  That's what's impressive, but then again there's hundreds of conservatory composition students that do the same thing every day.  I do feel, however, that musically (if not lyrically), Brian played it relatively safe compared to what he was capable of.  This is all very conventionally structured for anyone who listens to anything besides pop music, unlike the bizarrities he would start exploring on his Smile project....now that stuff was weird.

Songwise, from a pure entertainment level, I much prefer the three 'hits' (including the old folk cover 'Sloop John B', 'Wouldn't It Be Nice', and 'God Only Knows') to many of the side tracks because they're much more clearly constructed and have a punch that the other tracks lack.  'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow', for example, does very little for me because I can see through all the thick arrangements to a not-very-intriguing core.  The soundtracky instrumental sections repel me even more. 'That's Not Me' feels lyrically clumsy, too direct and wordy, and the melody is hard to distinguish until the 'packed up and went to the city' section, which feels tacked on from a completely different song. 'You Still Believe In Me' unfolds itself nicely but never reaches the climax it hints at...it's faded out entirely too early. 'I'm Waiting For The Day' begins a much improved section with some interesting contrast between loud and soft, slow and quick march sections that unfortunately transition to the instrumental 'Let's Go Away For Awhile', which leaves me flat. This is soundtrack music (as is the gloopy 'experimental' instrumental 'Pet Sounds', which sounds like Jimmy Page doing a session for the Henry Mancini orchestra), and while I suppose it's pretty, it only garners attention because of the album it's on.  If it were stuck on some Herb Alpert record (where it would seem to belong), no one would even look at it twice.  And 'Caroline No' is a melodyless, drippy piece of glop that ends the album with a whimper. See what I'm saying about overrated?  Every last bit of this record worked Brian's fingers to the bone, but a lot of it goes towards tracks that sum out at not very much.  Pretty, sure.  Some of the prettiest sections of music you're gonna hear from any pop band anywhere. Wacky instrumentation, sure.  But detached and way too labored to interest me long term..

The only track here that even sounds mildly spontaneous is the marvelous 'Sloop John B', an old folk shanty the band had been singing together since the beginning.  And the band must've enjoyed it a lot more than re-recording the second tenor part of 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times' for the 15th time in a row...they take to it with a spark that's missing from the rest of the vocal harmonies on the record, which feel unfortunately clinical. It also gives a much-needed moment of comic and rhythmic relief with some kooky lyrics about having all of one's corn eaten and tempos that rise above the loping gait of everything else on Pet Sounds.

From a lyrical standpoint, Brian seems to be stuck somewhere between being a confused, sad kid and a stubborn, ambitious adult, which I suppose he was. All of the songs on Pet Sounds are related somehow to this division.  It's most clearly enunciated on 'I Know There's An Answer', which he finishes by saying 'but I had to find it out for myself' and 'Wouldn't It Be Nice', where Brian longs for domestic bliss with his loved one but is restricted because he's not 'older'. At his depths, his depression is crushing ('I Just Wasn't Made For These Times') but he can be redeemed through love and understanding ('God Only Knows', which almost seems to guilt-trip his partner into sticking with him, but in a very pretty and original way, of course), but first must find out who he is and where he belongs ('That's Not Me').  The interesting thing is, Brian was really speaking about himself, but many of his songs here can easily be applied to our own problems and feelings as listeners.  'Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)' is really about the lack of understanding between him and his wife, but just as easily sounds like a romantic love songs if you're in the right mood.  I personally took a lot of pleasure in hearing an uplifting 'Sloop John B', especially the line 'This is the worst trip I've ever been on!' in the pits of a piss-poor, depressing Russian winter when I missed my country, my spicy food, and my family and didn't know when I'd see them next. This emotional universality of Pet Sounds is one of the things I can't dispute.

If you've been offended or surprised by my sober deconstruction of this album, it's simply because I just don't love the damn thing.  All of the beauty, the melodies, the arrangements, vocal harmonies...yeah, sure.  I think they're bonanza, too. But to me, there's not a zillion notes being played here...there's just a few, and most of the time it's the sssllloowww, emotionally overwrought ones. Should I just come out and say it's whiny? Okay, it's whiny.  Whines like a puppy kicked out of the house for peeing on the kitchen table. It's okay to be a little whiny, but over the course of an entire album it gets old, like how everyone in the movie Magnolia seems to be on the verge of tears all the fucking time.  Get over yourself! There's other things to feel in this life! Diversity! Give us a taste of joy, anger, misery, jealousy, devotion, AND confusion. You know what? I'd like to think that Brian himself thought Pet Sounds could use a little spice and be improved upon, because Smile, if nothing else, at least appealed to feelings other than being sad, reflective, and confused.  'Good Vibrations', whatever it is, has about as little to do with the overweening odors of Pet Sounds as Robert Fripp and Lemmy Kilminster.  As for the oft-quoted little snippets about being the first concept album (bullshit...we already covered that up in the Little Deuce Poop review) or how Paul McCartney took it as a major influence for Sergeant Pepper's (took it as an excuse to get off his ass and write more songs, is what he did), neither of those are good reasons to buy an album, so don't come here with the idea that if you liked the Beatles, you'll love this.  It doesn't work that way. 

Okay, so I still give it an A+ because it's a flawed masterpiece that everyone needs to hear at least once to decide for themselves what to think about it. Pet Sounds is good enough to get that classic critical dodge. And that's my final answer.

Capn's Final Word: I know there's an answer. You'll have to find it out for yourself.

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Nathan Harper nator9999@comcast.net     Your Rating: A+

Any Short Comments?: Come on man, comparing this one to Revolver is kind of a low blow. Revolver is often considered the GREATEST album ever by the GREATEST band ever. But actually, I think I like Pet Sounds better. It may not have as much diversity, but I think the song writing is stronger, and many people would probably back me up in saying that it's more emotionally resonant. I agree that it's overrated in terms of influence though, it's not really anything spectacularly inventive, just a bunch of great pop songs. I can't even pick out my favorite---they're all great.
 

jason     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I appreciate your honest and balanced comments on 'Pet Sounds,' and I agree with most of it, but there's just one thing I have to get off my chest....

'Caroline, No' is MELODY-LESS?!?!?!?!?!?  WHAT?
Anyway, I love your site.  keep up the good work.

Jim H.S. jim887arc@yahoo.com     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I gave this an A because I like the album, and musically it's a step away from the beach. Nope, I love this album. Although there's a big part of my heart tied to their earlier efforts, when I look back, I remember all those grains of sand (how easy to confuse one with another) and realizing now that after a while they rub where I don't want them to.  This one don't do dat. Maybe in Pet Sounds Brian Wilson gets closer than most popular composers can to creating classical, magic, and groundbreaking music.  But dat don't make it something other than pop music.  If I want those things, REALLY want them, and with a good dash of blood and rock, I go to the likes of Beethoven. Stoned & surfin, maybe not.  But deaf & German, yes.


Robert Grazer xeernoflax@jack-the-ripper.com     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: The principle (or, rather, only) problem I have with Pet Sounds is the fact that it doesn't elicit nearly as strong an emotional response from me as it seems to for many other people. The principle reason for this, I think, is that this album seems a wee bit too naive in its uniformly idealised romantic musings, perhaps a bit too focussed on the more innocent excitement of being in love. Of course, this is to be expected from a The Beach Boys, "Sufin' USA" and the like. But the simplicity of Wilson's romantic theory and the general "conservative loving" feel to this album distances it from me in that it strikes me as more a fairy tale, even in its pensive moments, than a full artistic representation of life and love. This minor quibble aside, I do think Pet Sounds does live up to most of its hype on a melodic level, boasting some of the most gorgeous harmonies of the decade, and even in its naivete it sounds more sophisticated than most other music aroun d the same time. And, of course, tracks like "Caroline, No" and "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" alone guarantee Pet Sounds some degree of classic status.
 


Smiley Smile - Capitol 1967.

Pet Sounds had pushed Brian to the breaking point, and his quest to produce the perfect followup just shattered him all apart like Joe Theissman's lower right leg back at that Super Bowl 20 or so years ago.  Even had bones sticking out of the skin just like ol' Joe, you see? He was fucked up, and felt the results for almost the next two decades.  He'd never again be the same, and it took him almost until the 1990's until even a glimmer of that old brilliance could be seen again...and until just a few years ago until he could really come to grips with his daunting work of the '66-67 period. Whatever could've sent our Beloved Brian spiraling off out into the cosmos in such an inglorious way? Smile has been the subject of so much conjecture and legend that it's taken on an impossibly lofty stature more attributable to wishful thinking than reality.  The assumption was that Brian's unbelievable level of artistic growth was to continue - Smile was supposed to make Pet Sounds look like Summer Days (and Summer Nights) (and Summer Days look like Oops, I Did It Again!). It was supposed to impress the Beatles and Phil Spector so much they'd pack up their tents and never set foot in a recording studio again.  It was supposed to contain all the sides of Pet Sounds and more, intriguingly correlating humor and philosophy, or something like that.  It was supposed to be a lot of things, but we'll never know because Brian flaked out in a most dramatic fashion, probably most tellingly described by his sessions for the track 'Fire' where he gave everyone toy fire hats, set a trashcan ablaze in the center of the studio, and made people play as diabolically as possible while recording the results.  Unable to handle it any longer, he retreated to his house and boarded up the windows to keep the demons out.  The other bandmembers, firey breath of an angry record company close on their heels, finally coaxed him into rewriting and finally recording some new and leftover material to make up enough for a new album, and he agreed. Smiley Smile was the patchwork result, almost entirely different from, yet built from similar parts as, the never-completed Smile. The end effect was nasty rejection and indifference from a fanbase who either wanted them to produce another Pet Sounds (or more likely another All Summer Long). Besides the singles 'Good Vibrations' (which was old hat by then) and 'Heroes and Villains' (which was a flop), there wasn't anything at all from this album that captured the average listener's imagination. It was difficult, confusing, and tossed off, and was 'crazy' in a disturbing, unpleasant way rather than in a cute, 'wacky' way. Welcome to the arms of madness, ladies and gentlemen.

Of course, after almost 40 years of hearing unlovable racket like Ensturzende Neubauten and Loverboy, the haunting 'pet sounds' and odd vocal harmonies of Smiley Smile no longer seem quite so off-putting.  Especially in comparison to Frank Zappa's oddly similar concurrent work with the Mothers (take away all the jazzy instrumental sections and some of the more spectacular yelling, add a few more pop melody fragments, and Uncle Meat could pass for a second disc of Smiley Smile), parts of this album feel merely unfinished, as if they just picked up a handful of random overdub tracks from the Smile sessions, added the completed version of 'Good Vibrations' and a randomly selected final mix of 'Heroes and Villains', and decided to make an album out of it. The more titillating fragments include 'Vegetables' (which, hey! corresponds quite nicely with Zappa's own veggie-fixated 'Invocation and Ritual Dance...' from Absolutely Free), which has Paul McCartney crunching and munching various members of the plant kingdom right there for our enjoyment, and the intriguing harmonies of 'With Me Tonight', which sounds like a Pet Sounds piece, but too pure and good to be included in that bag of mixed messages.  Interestingly enough, I hear some big Flaming Lips reference points in 'Fall Breaks and Back To Winter', which is probably one of the most deceptively titled songs since I figured out James Brown's 'Lickin' Stick' probably wasn't about Lick'em'Stix. and Cannibal Corpse's 'Post-Mortem Ejaculation' wasn't about picking dandelions in the park. (A better title for 'Fall Breaks' would probably be 'Trouble Brewin' at Santa's Workshop') Other tracks barely work at all. 'Little Pad' is just worthless, collage of poor-quality vocal tracks interspersed with Hawaiian guitar and random nothingness...the band cracks up at the beginning, which is always a poor omen. The last two tracks do nothing for me, as 'Whistle In' repeats the same little riff for a minute but ends up nowhere, and the growling lead vocal on the listless 'Wonderful' is more distasteful than romantic.  Mostly, the thing screams out 'unfinished', as there's no way Brian 'Overdub' Wilson would've let an album out sounding this sparse if he'd had half a mind left when it happened. These tracks literally resemble 1/100th of the music you'd hear on, say, 'Good Vibrations'.  There's more lost in the mix of that song than on the rest of this stuff combined.  The fact that it still works at all is testament to the amount of though Brian devoted to the (insignificant) details of his songs.

As the album is already jarring as it is, imagining a version of Smiley Smile without the two singles is like trying to imagine the Spice Girls without Posh Spice's black-patent leather camel toe. You could try, but why? Why try to live with yourself afterwards? Because these final gasps are among Brian's most amazing work.  'Heroes and Villains', which was released in a version that Brian was never quite happy with (and indeed, better versions exist) is a highly goofy pop opera that seems to combine the Ronettes and Gregorian chant, 'la la doo doo doo' and .  The words tumble out in a torrent, seemingly unrelated to what's happening in the music, and delightfully incoherent to the listener.  This is the type of vocal experimentation I can handle, buddy...

'Good Vibrations' quite possibly may be the best pop song ever released, and I'm not at all joking about that.  Of course, trying to prove such a conceit would be about as stupid as starting an internet chain letter (but not nearly as moronic as actually believing there's some kid in Wisconsin dying of cancer who's parents are irresponsible enough to rely on a chain letter to fund his treatment or that if we JUST stop BUYING GASOLINE on MONDAYS and WEDNESDAYS the RAT BASTARD OIL COMPANIES will be FORCED to STOP PRICE GOUGING and LOWER GAS PRICES!!!), but one intent listen and you too will realize the awesome power of this song.  Brian's taken Spector's conceit that the orchestra should be felt instead of heard to the logical extreme...there's unknown dozens of tracks somewhere down deep inside this song, and they were all bled and wept over until they reached perfection. He mixes Theremins, an overdriven Fender bass, about a hundred vocal overdubs, and some of the most booming percussion ever put to tape and compresses it all down into a mono, AM masterpiece that sounds superb blasting from cheap car speakers. There's probably more great material lost in the final mix of 'Good Vibrations' than in the entire catalogues of many 'classic' rock bands, and most of it you can only  feel because it's almost impossible to actually hear it.  And what's more, the song completely, gracefully refutes the ambiguity and confusion of Pet Sounds with a wholly positive feel that brims with, well, good vibrations! If anyone's come close to capturing the little spark that you feel when you first meet someone you know you'll fall in love with, it was Brian Wilson.  So long, Brian.

Because Smiley Smile is what it is and came from such a cantankerous period in the Beach Boys history, it's required listening for anyone who's interested in the Boys' story. The instinctive attraction to observing the charred earth left behind by Brian's legendary flameout is just too undeniable. (In fact, when I first got my 6-disc Beach Boys MP3 collection back in Russia, brought it home and popped Disc 1 in my laptop, the first thing I wanted to hear was Smiley Smile. Of course I'd already owned Pet Sounds, but it's telling I didn't much care to hear, say, Wild Honey instead) The problem is that most of this record isn't going to reveal much. While Pet Sounds was so introspective and lucid, and you could pretty much get a snapshot of Brian's mental condition at the time of its making, Smiley Smile is simply too far gone to make much sense at all.  Brian went from describing his fears and insecurities in great detail to writing little ditties about vegetables and girls losing their hair in a period of months....I suppose if that isn't enough of a clue into his sad and destructive situation, nothing else can be.

Capn's Final Word: Bizarrity that is pretty damned telling but not all that good. Contains one of the best songs in the history of the universe, though.

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Joe H.     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I'm probably alone in this but some days i think i like this album more than Pet Sounds. Most of the complaints that are against it is that it's too sparse. It's a hastely put together Smile rip-off. Some songs go nowhere. Most songs sound unfinished. The band sounds like they took one too many bong hits of the ol' hashish. I could probably go on for a few more of these average criticisms brought forth upon Smiley Smile.

The thing is, i think it's a better album for it. I doubt many people have heard many albums, if any, that sound like this one. It's quite the unique album. Especially on a major label, and especially by a band who was expected to have a number 1 album and had an album like Pet Sounds to follow up. Not to mention especially for the mid-60's.

My opinion is people expect too much of Brian Wilson. Maybe this was the absolutely wrong time to release an album like this. Obviously it was bad timing, and one of the most brilliant concepts, and ultimately unfinished/unreleased albums had to be sacrificed. Plus this album has been so typed up by 1967 that nothing would be acceptable to the public except Smile.

To wrap up this review quickly, i think this album is extremely underrated and, like i said before, people expect too much of Brian Wilson. I personally don't believe songs need to be "finished" to be really good. What someone thinks is a "finished" song is pretty subjective isn't it? A song could have all the window dressing in the world, but some songs can turn out better with just mere atmosphere and ethereality alone.

Granted, compared to Smile, it doesn't have much of a chance against such a grandoise concept, but i love this album because of its unpretentiousness, its whimsy, and of course its creepily bizarre and druggy nature which you may find on Smile to some extent but not to such dramatic lengths.

People may say these versions sound like pale skeletons compared to the Smile versions, or what could've been of the Smile versions, but for me i think it's a whole lot more interesting to have the Beach Boys whacked out on drugs and making this highly experimental homemade album at Brian's house and finishing it up within only a few weeks. The results are bizarre, creepy, erratic, and sometimes heavenly beautiful all at the same time. Smiley Smile is a very unique album and a criminally overlooked high point in experimental psychadelic pop

Barry Stoller     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: Everyone knows the old saw about Pet Sounds inspiring / challenging McCartney to get Sgt. Pepper together. Consider how Smilely Smile had its Fab influence, too - those song scraps tossed across The White Album and McCartney's fluffy first solo album owe serious debt to Smilely Smile, for better and worse.

 


Wild Honey - Capitol 1967.

The beginning of the Beach Boys reclamation project, Wild Honey finds heretofore uninteresting bandmembers (Carl! Al! Dennis!) stepping up their roles to save the band from the crash and burn of the Smile debacle. What's interesting is that whenfor so long these guys labored in the increasingly wide shadow of Brian and a constant, mind-numbing touring schedule, they were growing artistically and professionally too, they just couldn't ever get a word in edgewise.  They weren't hopeless squares at all (well, Mike was, and I'm not convinced about goofy Al). So while before I might've described the songs as 'his'  (Brian's), now I'm going to have to be careful...there will soon be five writers and singers in this band, and Brian will be one of the least important of them. Oh how things change when you're in the grips of a sickening mental disbalance

While the majority of these songs still carry Wilson/Love writing credits, there's a strongly reduced level of input from Brian...the bandmembers begin to play their own instruments on the album for the first time since, oh I dunno, back on Surfin USA when they all kept performing horrible instrumentals until I coughed up a lung out of protest. As you might guess, the arrangements are also pared down to bite-sized levels, leaving Wild Honey sounding spare, funky and, compared to the likes of Pet Sounds, downright sparse.  They've mostly left the ol' weirdness of Smiley Smile completely behind, with some vestiges including the Theremin whistling alongside the title track and the unfinished minimalism of 'Let The Wind Blow', but even those sound darned conventional...people who were thrown by the last album's extreme bizarreness can take shelter here.  Wild Honey's about as bizarre as a contemporary Young Rascals album - unless you're from a bass-ackwards redneck place like Texas, the idea of white guys making a shot at doing light soul just shouldn't seem all that revolutionary.

And it isn't. Wild Honey is pleasantly listenable and not a whole lot more, as all of the heavy meaning has also gone the way of the Wall of Brian...these are mostly sweet, simple upbeat light rock songs performed with one primary vocalist.  Yup, even the vocal harmonies are greatly reduced!  Without Brian to chart each voice they were left to theirThat's akin to Jimi Hendrix playing most of an album without turning on his Fuzzface, ladies and people I wish were ladies! It's not something to pick yer brain about though...massed vocals wouldn't much fit the white-boy soul here. And anyhow, it's quite cool to hear Carl belting his lights out on the title track, 'Darlin', and the raucous Stevie Wonder cover 'I Was Made to Love Her'. Carl's songs are also the highlights, especially the groovy 'Darlin', which dates back several years, but probably had to soak up some more Motwon influences before it got to its current state. 'Here Comes The Night' is almost garage-y in its spit-spat vocal melody, but no garage band ever had singers like this one, did it?  The only two moments of weirdness come with 'I'd Love Just Once To See You', which ends with the words 'in the nude' and sounds like the theme song for a potentially violent Peeping Tom, who talks about 'a feeling building up inside' over music fit for the Brady Bunch Variety Hour Nightmare. That's gotta be the track that clued Charles Manson into these guys and made him think maybe there was some 'potential' there, gotta be. Alternately, 'Mama Says' is just a repetitive rhyme of all the things Mama tells you to do ('sleep a lot, brush 'em like crazy') that has some of the only massed lead vocals of the record! Okay!

Listen, this stuff is really very nice, especially when compared to some of the prevailing white soul of the day (though it mostly falls short of being anywhere close to legitimate Motown, which was still riding a creative wave of it's own at the time), but you really have to adjust your expectations. For one thing, it's back to a bewilderingly short 25 minutes in length (excluding the bonus tracks, which are pretty interesting this time around, throwing in a couple of lost work tracks of 'Good Vibrations', an alternate mix of 'Heroes and Villains') and seems to last half that (dude, I can't believe they held onto 'Darlin' for so goddamn long! Take out 'Bull Session' from Today, slap that motherfather on there and I say you've got a firm A, buddy!) , and there are really no 'important' tracks here whatsoever.  If you're not in the mood for somethin' light, may I suggest eating a couple of bean burritos and another listen to Pet Sounds (or, better yet, go get Today! like I told you to) instead? But if you don't mind some boppy background funk, Wild Honey might just be your hive.

Capn's Final Word: Strippin' down in more ways than one, and a bit aimless, but nice is nice in a world of mean.

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Friends - Capitol 1968.

I suppose I'm not strapping on my cheap blue Nike running shoes and laying down in a bunk anytime soon, though Friends has tried to sink its New Age claws into my brain for thirty minutes now. I concur totally with what my esteemed and similarly scatterbrained WRC compadre Mark Prindle's assessment that Friends is a frightfully stealthy Mike Love recruitment tool for his stupid-ass Maharishi cult masquerading as a 'quiet' Beach Boys album.  This album is like ice-cold fingers depressing your brain, making you think that, yeah, feeling 'peace in my mind' may be a pretty good way to spend a lifetime.  You know what? One of the main reasons I reject religion, especially submissive Eastern cults like Transcendental Meditation, is that the mind is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PEACEFUL! It's supposed to work like a motherfucker, figuring out problems, reconciling conflicts, and thinking of ways to get in girl's pants.  I'm all for relaxation, reflection, and sleep (especially sleep, of which I consider myself quite an expert...I feel that the temperature of the pillow is responsible for at least 75% of sleep quality.  Sex beforehand, however, is overrated due to the fact that you have at least a 60% chance of sleeping in a rapidly cooling puddle of unknown fluids. Read details of this and more in my new essay 'The Best Lays Of Your Life: Going To Bed With The Capn'), but resigning yourself to the whims of some pitchy-voiced, hairy Indian dude with a penchant for waify blonde actresses because he's supposedly more relaxed than you and spending hours of your day sitting and thinking of as little as you can is complete bullshit.  Perhaps I'm not an expert on all the ways of the TM movement, but I am sure of three things: 1) the Maharishi (and cult leaders as a whole...every last one of them) only did what he did for the money and power; 2) for a guy who was supposedly unencumbered by earthly desires, he sure couldn't keep his hands off Mia Farrow; and 3) TM teaches subservience to this person.  That, friends and neighbors, is BULLSHIT! Always beware of people bearing blank stares and invitations to 'meetings'! Fer Chrissakes, think for yourselves!

Friends, sadly, is the soundtrack to the kind of vacant lifestyle these sheep lead ...this music is quiet, but it's DISTURBINGLY QUIET! Every song sounds like someone attempting to coax you into letting your guard down so you can become a pliant zombie and spend your days pulling weeds and fighting off dysentery  in some communal garden in rural Montana somewhere.  Fucking 'Passing By' might as well be renamed the 'March of the Loonies' for all of its gentle prodding. This may even sound on the verge of paranoid, but in an album with such blatant propaganda as 'Anna Lee, The Healer' (which makes me want to claw my tonsils out and stuff them in my ears...this stuff sounds like the Carpenters if the Carpenters had had lobotomies instead of eating disorders), the 'rocking' 'Transcendental Meditation' (sounds like Blood, Sweat, and Tears tuning up), and 'Meant For You', a song as otherwise innocuous as Al and Brian's 'Wake The World' (featuring lines like 'making my life so much brighter' because 'one by one the stars disappear') takes on a whole new creepy connotation.  Musically, we're subjected to what amounts to sunny death dirges, low-tempo tambourines-n-keyboard arrangements that kill entirely the moves towards a band sound begun on Wild Honey. I can't even tell who performs on this record...no one does.  They don't 'play', they 'strum'...it's not 'arranged', it's 'chanted'. And what the hell is 'Diamond Head' supposed to be if it isn't a graphic, wordless description of what happens when someone gives their freewill up to The Group? Go from noisy, irritating cacophony to a sunny existence on the beach, eh? Well, I, for one, hear the claws of a huge, evil insect-beast in those sunny scenes. Get the idea? This is like hearing the Fascist Youth of California on their way down to the river to drown some black and Jewish babies on their way to making a Utopia of the Cleansed.

It's times like these when I really get thankful for the drug-addled Dennis to show me that not all the Beach Boys are under the spell of the Man In The Long White Dennis has his big little moment in the sun on Friends (3 and a half minutes split over two songs...what are these guys, the Minutemen?), and while I really respect the real-life gravity he'd soon lend to his composition and like the guys' smoky, masculine-yet-vulnerable voice best out of all the Beach Boys except for Brian, these aren't hot potatoes.  There's a helluva melody down inside 'Be Still', but the arrangement is so meager that it's just left to choke there with nothing but a few organ chords to sustain it, and 'Little Bird' is upbeat but depressing.

Christ, I don't know WHAT this is, but it's sure as hell not my Beach Boys.  If you ever really want to hear pure evil coming at you with a grin rather than a howl, listen to Friends...this is sickness incarnate, and we can't even blame much of it on Brian, either.  I'm just thankful to my bended knees that the stoned out, easily influenced hippie sheep of the day didn't buy more copies of it. Sometimes goodness wins out in little ways you may not otherwise notice, and I say the massive failure of Friends was just another little victory for us right-thinking skeptical assholes who like our spiritual lives barren and like our brains cluttered up like this, thank you very much. 

Capn's Final Word: B'ware the glassy-eyed surfer who speaketh of peaceful paradise....for he speaketh of death. Plus, the music sucks JM J. Bullocks.

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K.J. Foxx     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?:    "The Single, Do It Again" was on the 20/20 album, not "Friends".

I don't hate this album nearly as much as you do, but the more I hear you and Prindle talking about how eeriely cultish it is, the more I think you're right, and the more scared I am to listen to it.

Harmonies on the title track though... wow!

Jason Adams  jasonadams@earthlink.net    Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I think you've taken the whole TM thing way too far. You can't infer that every damn song on the album is a recruitment tool for the Maharishi. That's just silly. The truth is that this album has some of Brian's best work on it, especially the title track and "Busy Doin' Nothing". If there's an eerie undertone to some of the tracks (and I think there is), it's just one more interesting detail.

(Capn's Response: A little healthy paranoia has served me well in this life, my friend.)

Steve Carey      Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: So what if it's, peaceful, quiet, spiritual, etc. the music is amazing...the title track is fantastic, with great hormonies and an interesting bridge. "When A Man Needs A Woman" is childishly beautifully. The eerie and playful contrast of Little Bird  as well as the heartbreaking Be Still (who cares if it's not pretentiously produced? the point of its low production probably is to accentuate Dennis' emotional vocal) amke Dennis somewhat of an x-factor, and Busy Doin' Nothing is just so fun! the whole bossa nova beat paired up with Brian's complex chord structure and riddling lyrics makes the song the best on the album imo... 


Stack-O-Tracks - Capitol 1968

The last of the Mastodons, the obligatory bits of record company evil, ripping off folks from their hard earned cash who bought Stack thinking they'd be getting a Beach Boys hits compilation heavy on the Pet Sounds material, bringing it home and wondering if maybe their hi-fi's are fucked up because they can't hear any vocals.  They sound like the real songs, but there's no goddamn singing. Who needs 'Little Saint Nick' or 'In My Room' without singing? It sounds like a cross between a Herb Alpert record and their 15-year old cousin's piano lessons! So then they curse and check their wiring, which all looks okay except their beer is getting warm, their party guests are getting restless, and it's looking like they got snookered once again. So in desperation they put on their copy of Beach Boys Greatest Hits and realize that no, there's nothing wrong with the hi-fi, and yes, Captiol records has shot the flesh torpedo straight up their poop chutes once again.  Motherfuck! Out $5.99...but I hear there's a great new instrumental double album out by Lou Reed, I guess I'll go check it out to make myself feel better.

I guess the lyric sheet inserted with the record should've tipped them off...Stack-o-Kacks is meant to be a sort of proto-Karaoke dealy-ma-bop, which is great except anyone who is lucky enough to sing like one of the Beach Boys, and who has enough friends that sound like the Beach Boys and can remember their wicked-complicated vocal arrangements has probably got a recording contract and enough money to pay the Beach Boys to come by and sing their own damn songs whenever they want.  It's fairly limited, see, but folks, they love the karaoke.  Like me.  I've given the best-ever performance of 'Roadhouse Blues' the Blue Bar in Austin, Texas has ever seen, complete with an Iggy Pop-esque routine where I slowly arched my back and bent my knees until I was facing backwards and a mini-striptease where I removed my shirt and tie to reveal a vintage Alice Cooper t-shirt.  But I'm smart, see - all you have to do on 'Roadhouse' is yell like a Kentucky redneck and belch.  Singing Beach Boys songs are like trying to run hurdles wearing clown shoes and with a perturbed wolverine in your underpants in comparison.

So I guess that leaves the other folks to take up the slack, people who want to hear all the little pieces of doo-dad that Brian was arranging all over his tracks but never got to hear them because of Mike Love's incessant blaring.  Well, dig in, because gems abound. Until you hear it a second time, and then it's just pointless again.  Maybe it's a fun concept that not too many people tried back in the Sixties, but this album sure feels like the cheapest possible way to cut another notch in your recording contract belt.  All you have to do is cue up the master reels and turn the vocal tracks to 'off'! And still they didn't erase everything! (I guess the ghostly remnants on some songs are the result of some poor vocal separation in the original recordings, showing Brian still had some things to learn about recording sound, heh heh). 

Capn's Final Word: I'll give you that hearing Pet Sounds songs instrumentally is fantastic, but I don't really want to have to pay for it when there's still Pat Benatar albums out there for me to buy.


20/20 - Capitol 1969.

Apparently nothing more than an instant escape hatch from the band's longstanding Capitol Records contract (what, couldn't think of another creative ripoff idea like Stack-O-Tracks? What about the London Symphony Orchestra Plays The Hits of the Beach Boys! Or trying to play all the instrumentals on Surfin' USA backwards! Or a dance remix album! Or a spoken word recording of Mike Love's poetry to give to last-stage cancer patients to help them come to terms with death by making it look more attractive than life!) so they released 20/20, which plays like one of their early studio albums! You get the singles ('Do It Again', 'I Can Hear Music'), leftovers from days when they weren't too busy being stoned or fucking Manson Family chicks indiscriminately to write new songs (the Smile-era 'Cabinessence' and covers (Leadbelly-by-way-of-CCR's 'Cotton Fields', the proto-reggae 'Bluebirds Over The Mountain'), but you also get a bunch of Dennis songs (including 'All I Want to Do'), a Bruce Johnston tune ('The Nearest Faraway Place'), and a song by brand-new dis-member Charlie Manson called 'Never Learn Not To Love'! Wow! One of the most legendary sick minds of the 20th Century got one of his songs on a Beach Boys album just before ordering his minions to cut a beautiful young actress's unborn child out of her stomach and mutilating it! How lucky are we? At least Charlie never got any royalties from the damn thing, because Dennis up and put his name in the credits instead! Good on ya, Denny, chalk one up for the non-homicidally psychopathic among us! I heard the Fifth Dimension got jealous and decided to put some harp arrangements by Sirhan Sirhan on their next record, but never got 'round to it because they were too busy shoving melons in each other's bottoms!

Anyway, 20/20 is just about impossible to pin down, but don't sweat it...it's actually pretty decent and doesn't really feel all that disconnected despite itself. There's good diversity here, especially since none of the Bitch Buoys albums since, oh I dunno...Summer Days (and Summer Nights) have been pretty samey and it was all getting a bit dire on Friends20/20 has variety in spades...things go from stupid surf-rockers to near-metal to soft-rock ballads. Parts of it are almost scarily like decadent, flashy 70's Calfornia-rock that would later boil up with the Eagles, like the overblown ballad 'Be With Me', sounding damn near Neil Diamond-esque. and Dennis' big-band rocker 'All I Want To Do' begin all 'Bitch'-y Stones, at least until the faintly recorded live fuck noises on the fade-out, which sound like a kinder, gentler Guns 'n' Roses. God, pass the coke and say a joke, because it's LA and it's the early 70's, so let's all get blitzed and do a bunch of shit in poor taste! Let's rip off one of the most recognizable melodies in the lexicon ('My Way') for a gloppy Barry Manillow intro to the even-more-gloppy Johnston ballad 'The Nearest Faraway Place'! Is that in poor enough taste for ya? And no one is more decadent than Uncle Chucky himself, so let's toss on one of his stupid-ass songs - 'Never Learn Not To Love' sounds kind of like the kind of melody the late-90's U2 would write, but only with not as much of a Jesus complex. I'm sure the Boys added all kinds of stuff to this song, but it still sounds skeletal and wimpy.  Or including covers that someone else covered better just a year or two before! That's Al's awful 'Cotton Fields', which sounds about as natural as a bull giving birth to baby chickens compared with John Fogerty's funkily down-home version. Covers! How decadent! They just scream out 'I have nothing else to say because I'm a sad, dull individual in an ambiguously hip band which I have made almost no artistic contribution to!' That'll bring the chest hair just climbing out of your mile-wide shirt collar, won't it! Let's all hop in my Excalibur and go down to Rodeo to shop for thick-ass gold chains, brown satin sheets and musk perfume, shall we?

Now, I've mentioned pretty much everyone but Brian and Mike, and that's because their input to this album is just about not there.  The Smile outtakes at the end (the wordless vocal harmony workout 'Our Prayer', which is Godly, and the multi-part 'Cabinessence' which is fascinatingly complex) show the band has begun the process of mining it's tape vaults for material with which to pad its albums, since THIRTY MINUTES IS JUST TOO GODDAMN LONG FOR FIVE SONGWRITERS TO FILL!! Holy Christ, people think these guys are vastly underrated? Prince writes thirty minutes of music between taking a dump and brushing his teeth, fer chrissakes! And the 'hits' arejust decent but highly unremarkable hook-delivery devices that were written on autopilot.  Mike, after dominating Friends with his creepy TM recruiting bullsnot, pretty much takes 20/20 off other than for 'Do It Again', probably having been too busy sucking the Maharishi's wrinkly raisin-cock to write songs with his band. And 'Do It Again' is a sleepwalking, pod-person attempt at recapturing the old surf sound...the melody is snappy, but they play it so slowly it sounds like they're sinking into the sand. Not that I'm complainin' about the lack of Love...I'm more than happy to hear Dennis' and Carl's songs than Mike's, thank you very much!

The final word on 20/20 is that this shit is slimier than a lactose-intolerant Brazilian road-crew worker's asscrack. Yet, somehow, I don't feel ripped off by it at all...there's enough good material to more than balance out for the bad, and though it’s a bumpy ride, I feel pretty good at the end.  Anyway, how many times are you going to hear a band so ballsy as to include a Manson song AND fuck noises AND a song called 'Our Prayer' all on the same record?

Capn's Final Word: Slime time and a shotgun approach that works more than it doesn't.

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Live in London/'69 - Capitol 1969

Messier than a vulture's lunch, fer damn's sure, these Beach Boys still have lotsa fun onstage despite a pretty shitty performance, and their happy-go-lucky what-the-fuck atmosphere translates strangely well to disc. Compared to so many severe, disengaged late 60's performers, seeing the genial, jokey Beach Boys must've been quite a shock.  I like this live album despite myself.  I guess I have something for warts'n'zits recordings such as this one, as this is pretty much like you'd hear the Beach Boys play some random night in the late 60's. I'll tell ya one thing, after listening to so many spayed-and-neutered patch-job live albums from the 1970's, hearing something as real as this is mighty refreshing. There never was an overdub within half a mile of this record, that's for sure...the Beach Boys spend the album cracking more notes than Roseanne Barr with a head cold, blowing cues, and pretty much jabbering like a bunch of idiots. I also give them kudos for not shying away from the more challenging songs in their catalogue, despite having No Idea how to sing them live in concert. You think 'Good Vibrations' is maybe a little demanding? Well the Beach Boys give it a stab...then give it another and another and on and on until it's lying in a bloody, mutilated heap right in the middle of the stage.  And that one's got help from the orchestra they've got onstage with them (no kidding)...imagine what the bonus track 'Heroes and Villains' must sound like! Well, I'll tell ya...it sounds bloody apalling, but I still laugh every damn time I hear it anyway. I'm more depressed by the stretch of late Sixties non-hits that pollutes the middle of the album, like the sickeningly thin 'Aren't You Glad' or the stoner-blitzed reggae doo-wop vomit of 'Bluebirds Over the Mountain'.  But the ol' favorites, man, they're money - 'Sloop John B' is more upbeat and sunny than the Pet Sounds version - it's entirely out of character for someone who's on the 'worst trip they've ever been on' to sound so goddamned ecstatic, but I guess I'm not to fit to comment on the extent on Mike Love's masochistic tendencies other than to say when he sings the line 'he ate up all of my corn' he sounds like he's remembering some long-ago erotic episode. Or not.

Anyhow, 'California Grills', 'Grillin', 'God Only Grills', and 'Bar-be-cue Ann' are all great pancakes, just as fun as you want and alive enough to remind you of how difficult it must be to sing all these notes and still find time to be an obnoxious, chattering asshole in the meantime.  Whatever you think of it, it's NOT a good substitute for a compilation...they certainly do NOT replicate their studio recordings onstage (Carl does a good job of it on 'God Only Knows', though), but try to get everyone caught up in the 'spirit' of a Beach Boys live show, which I think they succeed at, at least sometimes.  Still, with all these Beach Boys releases to choose from, shouldn't this fall somewhere back in line? I'd say so.

Capn's Final Word: Messy-ass live album that shows you how it really was, which might not be what you would've wanted.

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Sunflower - Epic 1970

They certainly sound like they know what they're doing this time, which I sure as shit couldn't say the last few times around...Sunflower's gained a sort of reputation as the forgotten Beach Boys classic, having been out of print for forever and known by only a few hardcores who argued endlessly over the merits of this album versus Surf's Up or Carl and the Passions or whatever.  Brian has less of an influence on this record than any he's had so far...his descent from the lofty, megalomaniacal throne on which he strained in the mid-60's (sorry) to not even knowing when the other Beach Boys were going to release their new shit (I love his quotes in Wouldn't It Be Nice where he says things like 'I had absolutely nothing to do with that album.' about Carl and the Passions, as if he's somehow absolved for letting his bandmates release a steaming pile of pig vomit instead of dragging himself together and trying to help them out like he did on Surf's Up).  I guess there's only so much unreleased Smile stuff lying around, and you can't waste it all at once because wasn't there some stipulation in their new label Epic that there had to be a certain number of Brian songs on each album? Sheeit, doncha think the label wished they'd known that they'd be getting better material out of Carl and Dennis than they ever would from Mr. Brain around this time? On the other hand, the Beach Boys were getting some jerking around of their own, as Epic declined to release their dull Landlocked album for lack of any clear hits, so Sunflower is a quickie second effort...lemme tell ya, Epic is some wise buncha assholes! It may not make the artists feel too good, but I'm glad the suits stood up and let it be known they wouldn't be accepting any shit from these guys...

Sunflower is one of the more unified, clean albums of the Beach Boys career, one that sounds sufficiently substantial to overcome the inevitable inclusion of some truly lame filler.  One big difference between this record and the others of this era is that the Boys collaborate with each other on the songwriting chores instead of hoarding their compositions off in their own little corners, which means that Mike Love's idiotic nostalgia/fruit philosophy songs are tempered with some punchy melodies, and Bruce Johnston's middle-aged longhair Fascist anthems no longer quite sound as much like they're being played by three Quaalude addicts and a corpse. And there are some great songs on this album, really memorable combinations of hippie haze and great harmony singing, and as such I have such a favorable impression of this thing I'm thinking that it's probably the best Beach Boys record ever, at least behind Pet Sounds (of course) and Today. Any album that has the dense, subtle 'All I Wanna Do', on which Mike (!) and the band sound so much like Big Star-era Alex Chilton that I'm almost willing to call the thing 'meditative' until I realize that the man tried to suck my frontal lobes out of my ear holes and present them to the Maharishi on a silver platter a couple of years ago and I resist. But I have no qualms about praising Dennis's sappy-but-wonderful ballad 'Forever', which shows the man's got more than a smidge of his brother's former Melody Talent, and a voice with more character than anyone else in the band, and his quirky, funky rocker 'Slip On Through' shows a deft ability to shift from unsettling edginess to a nice resolution like a lightswitch has been turned.  Carl runs a close second with his more one-dimensional but still masterfully performed 'This Whole World', which has enough overdubs and wacky instruments to almost sound Pet Sounds-y.  Hell, even lame-ass Bruce Johnston pulls off a couple of his better tracks with the bubblegum Association soundalike 'Deidre' and the twee cabaret piece of 'Tears In The Morning'.  Only Al hits more into the drink than on the fairway, but even those are easily forgettable, soupy little ballads that at least show off some vocal harmonies.

That said, I'm completely unimpressed by Brian's 'big song', 'Cool Cool Water', which features vocal harmonies complicated more out of habit than out of necessity, and ends up being a pretty tiresome way of spinning out five minutes in a hail of grumbling and whoosh noises that no doubt are supposed to raise out consciousness of the state of our oceans, or something.  Makes me want to pee all over my carpet, but maybe that's just because of all the watermelon, beer, and coffee I've had. That's right...my pee is clear like Zima and I have to go every five seconds! Blip blop synth noises and melodies meandering around the playground are NOT going to help me any! And neither is the tastelessly incompetent rocker 'Got to Know the Woman', which is sure hard to remember because the name of the song most DEFINITELY is NOT REPEATED THREE DOZEN TIMES like a little toddler who somehow learns how to say something really offensive in public and YELLS it OVER AND OVER until you want to stuff Beanie Babies down in there until people stop looking at you!!!! Or not, but I swear when I whacked my hammer through the drywall in my back bedroom closet I for sure did NOT yell out 'fucking whore-ball sphincter-lint shit-sucking twat balls!' at the top of my lungs. I have NO idea how Katia learned that awful phrase!

Surprisingly, all the former sidemen's skills peak at precisely the same moment.  The best place to approach post-peak Beach Boys.

Capn's Final Word: And on a rapidly fading beer buss it's murder. A headache waiting to happen. Street Legal is a rapidly fading something or other. If only it had any idea what. At least it's not disco.

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Surf's Up - Epic 1971

Probably because of the so-TO-tally ironic album title and cover (showing a seriously drab painting of the 'End of the Trail' statue proudly featured at the Cowboy Hall Of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, just across the highway from the Cinemark movie theater in which I got a simply fantastic blowjob from this cute little 17-year-old coed once), this album gets a lot more press than it deserves, which is just about as much as Carl and the Passions.  The short story on this record is that it's got one of the last great unreleased Smile tracks, 'Surf's Up', and two more drab, melodic gems from Brian - 'A Day In The Life Of A Tree', and 'Til I Die'.  The rest of the songs (i.e., the ones not by Brian), roundly eat the crusty arsehole of Englebert Humperdinck himself, which is something of a complete retreat from the frighteningly high levels of competence shown on the last record. It's funny how the tradeoff goes...when Brian's taking a vacation, his bandmembers have the ability to step up and make a good record.  But when he's on (relatively, anyway...there aren't any 'Wouldn't It Be Nice's on Surf's Up), they all head south faster than a Nazi war criminal with a freebee Lufthansa ticket. The best non-Brian track is Carl's 'Long Promised Road', which is essentially just 'This Whole World' all over again (his other track, 'Free Flows' is dull and disengaged but oddly tolerable, sort of like Carl himself. So I won't say anything more about it), but the rest is pure nonsense. While everyone brought a winner to the table on Sunflower, now everybody brings a crapbasket of their very own. 'Don't Go Near the Water' sounds like what would happen if you would take the easy, jazzy harmonies of 'Surf's Up' and intentionally do the exact opposite.  Instead of a massed, unified sound, Mike hacks out his piffle, preachy lyrics with a handful of watery guitar noises and a asspocket of cynicism in the guise of an eco-anthem. The man comes back again a few songs later to pour lime juice on your wounds with the indescribably lame 'Student Demonstration Time', one of the most perverse attempts at blues I've ever heard, and a song which somehow finds time to pollute the Beach Boys sound with fuzzed-out glam guitars and alien stun phaser synth effects while spouting out clueless lines about Kent State and Jackson as if Mike had half a clue what they were even protesting about. Considering what a fucking Republican assgobbler Love turned out to be, this is sort of like hearing Ike Turner singing 'I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar', except for it sucks.  Johnston's 'Disney Girls (1957)' settles it...the man's the Butters of the rock world. This guy is so wimpy he makes Barry Manilow sound like Henry Rollins...he simply doesn't have a manly bone in his body (except for Mike's, heh heh), and although I wouldn't go and say the Beach Boys are a bunch of hardballs or anything, he's way too milquetoast to be tolerated in this group much longer.

Without Brian's tracks (besides, of course, the song about watching your toes get wrinkly in the bath...that's just childish), this album would be as bad as Friends...with them it's a tolerable mess, seemingly getting worse and worse until Brian's croak, pitchier than Britney Spears during a power outage and real as a heart attack starts up 'A Day In The Life Of a Tree' without delay.  Brian's sort of like that great old car you keep stocked away in your garage. You know it used to be beautiful, the envy of everyone on the road, but ever since he began leaving you stranded out in the rain, broken down on the side of the highway at precisely the worst moments you just can't trust him anymore.  So you drive your Toyota or your Hyundai (how a car company ever got started in this country with such a disgusting fucking name, I'll never know) instead and try to convince yourself it's okay, when you rally want to dig in behind the huge wheel of your hot rod and fire 'er up one more time.  And sometimes it happens, and it's glorious for a short while as you tool around, trying not to notice the squeaks and pops and groans that threaten another breakdown sooner instead of later.  Surf's Up is like that last ride...Brian sounds on the verge of cracking right up again (he's gripping as can be but he sure doesn't sound very good), but the melodies are so spectacular it's hard not to wish it could go on forever.  But it can't.  Brian's happy in his garage, stuck away amongst the rags and inhalants. I completely have no idea what the lyrics of 'Surf's Up' are supposed to signify (I also *sssss!* think this is the least wonderful song of the three album closers!), but that doesn't mean it doesn't signify anything.  Like a lot of Brian's best work, there are some spaces to fill within this multi-part harmony masterwork.  There's a lot the other members need to learn about having their songs retain a bit of mystery...there sure isn't a lot gone unexplained about crap like 'Student Demonstration Time'...I don't think there's too many people breathlessly discussing that one. 

Capn's Final Word: Overblown and underwritten social-consciousness mess. Brian's songs keep it from being dragged off to sea.

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K.J. Foxx kjfoxx2k@aol.com     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?:    LOVE LOVE LOVE this album.  More peaks than Sunflower, with, yes a few Valleys as well (Basically, the Mike / Al tracks are the only subpar ones, and 'Welfare Song' isn't that bad either).

I think Bruce outdoes himself with a melodic, yet wussy masterpeice in Disney Girls.  Both of Carl's tracks showed that he had an ear for SOMETHING contemporary (The only Boy along with Dennis who could claim that; apparently Carl and Dennis were in a power struggle at this point and Carl nixed Dennis's material from the album because of it.  IMAGINE if that wouldn't have happened!)

The second side of this album though... WOW.  Not a clunker in the bunch.  'A Day in the Life of a Tree' isn't sung by Brian, it's sung by the band's manager, Jack Reiley, with an appearance by Van Dyke Parks at the end on backing vocals (the really pussy-sounding ones).  Great stuff.  Kinda makes you wonder what the hell Carl was thinking with the next one...


Carl And The Passions - So Tough - Epic 1972

Not my Beach Boys, not yours, not anybodys...not even their own.  They disowned this album faster than Dennis Wilson through a kilo of China White after it was all over...Brian even claimed in his autobio/fairy tale Wouldn't It Be Nice that he wasn't involved at all in putting it together! Bruce Johnston had left, replaced by a couple of guys whose names you shouldn't really bother yourself with try9ing to remember, and Carl doesn't seem to put forth too much effort, neither, despite what the title of this record (One of the band's worst EVER, all a phony nostalgic fake-album bullshit which deserves to be set right next to M.I.U. and L.A. (Light Album) on a particularly savage plane of LP hell) This is the Beach Boys' one and only foray into sounding not one Barnacle Bill like themselves, apparently running low on patience after their last several albums sold fewer copies than Edwin Newman Sings Zydeco Classics! and resorting to last-ditch tactics like attempting to recast themselves as a sort of Band/Harry Nilsson hybrid, half drunken country-rock and half drunkenly earnest singer-songwriterisms as if they'd spent the last year back up in the woods drinking Rebel Yell and making clumsy passes at their first cousins ('Mike only beats me because he loves me. Mike Loves me!)...forget the nostalgia-trip album cover...this album's as backwoods as it gets for a bunch of guys from suburban Southern California. Well, them and a couple of new studio-sluts (one of whom is named Blondie, but yet isn't a catchy-yet-overrated late 70's disco/New Wave act fronted by an aging Playboy Bunny, sorry to say) who were brought in by shifty producer Jack Riley to make things a bit more marketable.  There's only 8 bitches on this bitch, and though it runs an amazingly Beach Boys-like 35 minutes, it seems to drag on and on and on.  Like his brothers experiences with Van Dyke Parks, Dennis has seen fit to latch onto a songwriting partner...but instead of a wacky Mad Libs-like lyricist, he's gotten hitched to Daryl Dragon, who later went onto fame as the Asshole in the Hat in Captain and Tennille. My jaw hits the floor.  Dennis Wilson, drunken angel, sullying his voice with the 'talents' of the Captain of Captain and Tennille? The obscenities never end with this band.

Okay, okay, I don't hate this record.  Only the people who want to hear a Beach Boys record when they buy a Beach Boys record are going to get fucked in this deal (and let me remind you, you're not buying a Beach Boys record...you're buying something by a band called Carl and the Passions, so it's your own damn fault if you feel ripped off).

This is simply dull country-rock hackwork of the same degree as, say, the roughly concurrent Farther Along by the Byrds. I almost mentioned Bob Dylan's Planet Waves as well, but no, this is really worse than that similarly 'moist' slop session.  The songs here sound like simulations of rootsiness by people too wasted to tell the difference. The best song on here is Brian's reactionary 'Marcella', which finds solace by navel-gazing back to the Fifties, but I guess I can dig the messily complex 'You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone' and the juke-joint croaker 'Hold On Dear Brother', but that's only because I not only enjoy Dr. Hook impressions more than the average idiot, but I also equate steel guitars with feeling more than I should.  Otherwise, the songs buh-low. Dennis' rapidly deteriorating on-the-verge-of-snapping-a-drumstick-into-a-sharp-stake-and-jamming-it-into-his-neck vocal delivery is affecting, but it's wasted on dishwater dirges like 'Make It Good' and 'Cuddle Up'. Mike and Carl harmonize to no result on 'All This Is That', and new guys Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar pull out all the available CSN ripoffs to put together the serviceable but uneventful 'Here She Comes'. 

So Tough is not awful, but it's definitely one of the most unlovable Beach Boys albums out there.  The band, what's left of it, sounds splintered and unfocused, and the album exists under a strange fog.  It's poorly sequenced, with a bunch of slow shit at the end (including both Dennis tunes) that produces the impression that this fucking thing will never end, and generally feels cheap. Epic, now no doubt wondering why they ponied up all the dough to get this bunch of unhip, drug-addled has-beens in the first place, used their infinite wisdom to pair this album with a copy of Pet Sounds on its release.  This move almost screamed out 'We admit this is a crap album! Please accept our apologies and a copy of this six-year-old classic album.  We desperately hope this makes up for your crushed dreams and please don't forget there's plenty of other Epic artists to love! Like Neil Young!' At 8 songs, they'd better have released something with this or all three dozen of the remaining Beach Boys fans would've marched on the record company and burned Mike Love in effigy. Or maybe would've just stopped caring a rat's patoot about the Beach Boys like everyone else.

Capn's Final Word: There's only one Band, and God only knows why you'd want to sound like them, but the Beach Boys fail even at that much.

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Holland - Epic 1973

I feel I must kindly object, sirs.  The general critical feeling that Holland is a lost classic that is one step below Pet Sounds, and is the point at which the band broke out of a short period of doldrums and began 'experiment' again.  Well, as we say in environmental engineering, that is a steaming puddle of horse diarrhea. It's that simple. The desperate early-70's search for a way out of their commercial exile reaches its nadir on this 'double' LP, consisting of a normal-length Beach Boys album (read: short-ass) and an EP's worth of bonus material comprised of Brian telling a stupid fairy tale. If anything, this sucks even worse than Carl and the Passions because most of the running time is chewed up by Brian's foolishness and Mike Love's ill attempt at a 'song cycle' (you should now be visualizing The Dude's landlord in The Big Lebowski if you have any taste in films at all) called the 'California Saga'. Very little is left for the salami in the sandwich, and when you get down to that stuff you realize that not much of it is any good, either. The seven non-'California' non-'Pied Piper' tracks form a continuation of the de-Beach Boys-ing of the Beach Boys started on the last album and are split between acceptable soft rock ditties ('Sail On Sailor', 'Trader') and hookless glop that I find extremely stupid and offensive to the soul-appreciation centers of my brain ('Funky Pretty'). Very little resembles the Beach Boys of old at all, which I wouldn't mind except the band resembles faceless mid-70's soft rockers like Bread instead.  'Trader' is a very interesting song and ranks as the best on the album.  It's all about the invasion of the New World by the Europeans (pretty apropos considering the band was hanging around Holland, and the Dutch were some of the most rabid imperialists of all time) and drives its way through a sort of semi-Elton John uptempo section before settling down into a meditative slow part (don't miss it...this slow section is much better than all the rest on the record...and there's a LOT of 'em). But 'Steamboat', 'Leaving This Town', and 'Only With You' are all just really fucking slow, ponderous, and long. (For one thing, when did the Beach Boys ever get permission to start writing songs longer than five minutes? Who do they think they are, Gentle Giant? Brian never needed that long back in the Sixties, goddamn it! It must've been all the wheelbarrows of hash they were smoking in Amsterdam while recording this self-indulgent pool of vomit, I guess.  I want to make this clear - this soft rock is NOT GOOD.  There's NOTHING EXPERIMENTAL OR INTERESTING ABOUT IT.  It sounds like contemporary Fleetwood Mac, the version with Bob Welch that never could make themselves sound like they meant what they were playing.  The word here is 'muddled'.  Even the single 'Sail On Sailor' is ambiguous, though the melody is somewhat clearer than on the rest of this swill. Sure, it's not as bad or mind-numbing as Friends, but you could dig up this kind of limply synthesized adult contemporary stuff under millions of other rocks in the 70's.  Are we supposed to crap all over ourselves to give the Beach Boys a pat on the back for doing the same thing? I say hell no.  Nobody needs this record in the same way as Sunflower or even Surf's Up. Fortunately (or, well, not) Mike Love's and Brian Wilson's sections sound not a lot like these faceless other tracks, so we'll look at them separately.

Mike's big coming out party (just like those gay men who leave their wives and children to spend their lives searching for large lubricated items to insert in their rectums have), the 'California Saga', shows very clearly that Mike is one of those George W/Ronald Reagan-type shallow thinkers that think they've got philosophy when they really just have a set of slogans to saunter around. Here he waxes all poetic about eagles and relaxing in the sun.  I don't really know that he necessarily creates a 'whole' out of his three separate parts, but the point is sort of moot anyway because only the first section ('Big Sur') is any good at all. That one's sort of akin to a Lou Reed half-spoken 'epic', like the one on Coney Island Baby about 'playing football for the coach', and rests on a simple but very nice melody and some Dylan-y harmonica.  Sure...I'll take that, but I'll leave the pretentious hippie Jonathan Livingston Seagull bullshit of 'The Beaks Of Eagles' and the recidivist 'California' that sounds like Mike's been spending ten years trying to write his impression a Surfin' Girl track and finally gave up and stole the bassline for 'California Girls' so he could finish his 'trilogy'. Whatever. Mike produces three songs, one is modest and nice, one lodges itself halfway up the crapper of the early Sixties and one is howlingly misguided 'modern' hippie folk.  What else is new?

Brian's little fairy tale should pretty much be skipped.  Boy listens to radio at night.  Boy hears voice of gnome.  Boy doesn't believe gnome is real.  Gnome convinces boy he is real.  Boy convinces brother gnome is real.  Mother takes radio away because all parents are oppressive fascists who don't appreciate a child's imagination.  Brian plays piano tinkles.  Ryan picks at belly button lint, wishing he were listening to Deep Purple's In Rock instead. Ryan knocks album down a grade.

Holland disturbs me.  I really don't like it, much more than I've maybe I've described here.  Nothing here outside 'Sail On Sailor' (which still loses me) or 'Trader' really deserves to be on a record.  And while I was SURE Mike Love's trilogy would prove to hold the worst sequences on the album, I was wrong.  This album is full of slow music for old people, and anyone who claims to find gold here is suffering from a large bout of wishful thinking.  Because the remainder of the Beach Boys studio albums, with a few exceptions, are generally agreed to SUCK by everybody, this is people's last chance to claim a shred of the band's greatness, so they attempt to rationalize the lack of hooks or decent melodies under the shroud of 'experimentalism'.  They're just out of whack...this record is just dull and tedious.

Capn's Final Word: This isn't experimenting...this is fucking up. They should've experimented with writing songs with a pulse.

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K.J. Foxx  KJFoxx2k@aol.com     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?:    Woah you are just so WRONG about this; and I NEVER tell a reviewer they're WRONG about anything general like 'an album'...

I'll be fair to you though; I assume you probably only listened to Holland a couple times before writing your (well backed-up, at least) opinion..  Holland takes a few more listens to really sink in.

Holland is probably the ONLY Beach Boys album aside from Pet Sounds that sets a coherent mood, context, and feel unifying each and every song, and unlike Pet Sounds, you can listen to it all the way through without feeling like you stepped out of Casablanca with all the string-drenched ballads (Forgive me for slagging 'Sounds', it's definitley an A+, but so SLOW).

You rated this LOWER than 'Carl and the Passions'?!!!  EVERY song here is tuneful, with a carefully crafted melody and production style.  Dennis's songs are WONDERFUL (if not slow, but the end of Steamboat is SWEET).  Blondie and Ricky unite to write a song that DOESN'T seem completley out of place (Leaving this Town).  In fact, Funky Pretty (Brian's baby) is probably the weakest thing here, and they had the kind sense to put it at the END for once!  (Ok,'California pt 3' is totally trite, but those first two parts?  Hoo boy!)

Holland is THE most carefully crafted Beach Boys album outside Pet Sounds (and Today, but hell, BOTH of those albums were BRIAN, not the BEACH BOYS).  The compositions don't stand out (other than Trader) but rather, they grow on you.  If you want to relax around the pad, or get some sleep outside in the sun, THIS is the album to do so with.  It can be listened to front-to-back without ever giving one the urge to hit 'skip'.  Give it 2 or 3 more spins, and you'll feel the same way, my friend.


mojitojoe     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: i disagree..... it's one of my favourite albums !

 


Live In Concert - Epic 1974.

Lengthy live album unencumbered by Mike's distracting stage banter that loaded down Live In London, but which holds damn few interesting moments otherwise.  The band, now featuring, oh whoever, sounds distressingly like a nostalgia trip, as if they spent too much time playing in front of clueless bunches of non-hip folks who don't like their 'cool' beards and don't give a whore's limp about TM.  They rush through the old hits, lending them none of the character they displayed last time around, and play a bunch of their goddamn new songs because they're trying their darndest to jack up the sales of crap records like Holland.  Still, I guess they know which side their buttocks are buttered on because they tend to play only the better songs from the post-Brian records ('Sail On Sailor' and 'Trader' from Holland, though also 'Funky Pretty' and 'Leaving This Town', 'Darlin', and 'Marcella'). While they're more professional and screw up a lot less often, they sound like they're on autopilot.  Their vocal harmonies are almost nonexistent, rendering much of their old work crap ('Heroes and Villains' sounds like Chuck Berry with someone imitating a Dust Buster in the background), and the bigger, fuller band remains anonymous the whole time.  I dunno, maybe I just don't 'get' this version of the band, but I feel like I'm listening to Sha-Na-Na or the Osmonds when I hear them, not one of the best American pop bands of all time. They don't embarrass themselves, but isn't there better out there than that?

 That's the whole thing wrong with this album, and indeed with this era of the group in general.  There's been a sort of Carl-ization of the Beach Boys around this time, reducing the disparate but interesting contrasts between the different personalities and styles in the band that were shown so clearly back on Sunflower with increased roles for boring also-rans like Al Jardine and glorified backup band players like Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar, who should never have been given such a big role in this band. Hell, I prefer Mike Love to these dudes, and that's saying a LOT...at least he says something unique, and I always like it when he lets his voice go a bit.  Here he's Robot Love, going from Point A to Point B to Encore to Groupie without engaging himself whatsoever. Dennis was onstage, though you sure as hell can't tell from this recording. Brian's gone, so don't even ask. The rest of it is sung by somebody (somebody does 'Good Vibrations', somebody does 'Caroline No', somebody does 'Wouldn't It Be Nice'), but what I'm saying is that not know who sings what, I don't care.  Never once do I wonder who's doing a great job on track-such-and-such, because I never really think a great job is being done on any of these tracks.  A serviceable one, yeah, but I've got only about fifteen thousand serviceable live albums in my collection...I don't really need another one.  I guess if you like the early 70's hits, this is the live album for you, but for me this is a document of an era I'd just as soon forget.

Capn's Final Word: Cheeky live motion-going that plays like the animatrons at Chuck E. Cheese. Good selection of songs, but no heart.

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15 Big Ones - Epic 1976

Not a compilation, but you'll wish it had been.  This album, released after damn near three years of endless touring, hanging out, and getting fucked up since Holland came out way back in '73, was the return of the 'real' Beach Boys, including a certain Mr. Brian Wilson, proudly featured in all his chubby, longhaired, psychotic glory right there on the front cover.  But by 1976, the competition for who was actually the craziest member of the Beach Boys was no longer an automatic Brian lock.  Dennis, particularly, was getting further and further mired down in binge coke snuffling and redneck-quality drunks, acting oddly and leading a more interesting life in three hours than Carl or Al would squeeze out of their entire crusty lives. Mike was still super-intent on getting people to love the Maharishi like he does, and willing to beat the shit out of anyone who disagrees that it makes you into a calm and peaceful person.  The rest of the band was in similar disarray, trying to decide whether to break off and do solo albums or just keep enjoying the big concert payoffs and royalty checks from the massively popular Endless Summer 60s-era singles compilation. This was not a bright period for the Beach Boys themselves, but their popularity had skyrocketed since the last time we saw them due to a wacky combination of American Graffiit/Happy Days 50's-early 60's idealization and a general sense of displeasure with the ponderous, unhappy mid-70's music scene.  People longed for the simplicity and good times of the early Beach Boys, and Endless Summer was their perfect fix.  After gorging themselves on something good, people, as they're wont, will eat just about anything as long as you make a passing attempt to convince them it's similar to the last thing they liked.  The record company knew it was time to crank out another Beach Boys record, but they'd be goddamned sure to make it sound all 'retro', and even lend it a smidge of credibility by forcing the stubborn worm Brian out of his hidey-hole to squint confusedly at the sunlight, write a couple of songs, make a few clueless promo appearances, and maybe even get his fat butt up on stage.  People LOVE that whacked-out motherfucker! He's like a cross between Richard Pryor, a three year old autistic kid, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but CRAY-ZAY! Get his stinky porn-addicted elephant ass in my office by noon TOMORROW!

Brian, of course, went along with the record company demands, even going so far as to surf in some stupid network-TV promo special (although he was TERRIFIED of the ocean and probably had to down half of Old Man Jimmy Beam's fall shipment just to keep that glassy smile glued to his face) but, like his crazy ass will do if you're not watching, up and quit before the album was complete, leaving a mess for Mike Love to clean up.  Asshole as he may be, there sure wasn't anyone else willing to do the dirty work necessary to keep the band going, so at least Mike delivered something on time, because otherwise the Beach Boys might've very easily found themselves looking for another record company. Out of this unconscionable mess, 15 Big Ones sprouted like a psilocybin mushroom, although one that's good for nothing but bad trips. 

The first thing you'll notice here is that this sounds NOTHING like early 70's Beach Boys, but instead makes a lame attempt to be all 50's with craploads of doo-wop background vocals, slapback echo, and barely audible instrumentation just like you'd hear on, oh I dunno, Shut Down or something.  The next thing you'll notice is that more than half of these songs are covers. And not covers of obscure old Four Freshmen tracks, either, but highly familiar retro-y favorites like 'Rock And Roll Music', 'Chapel Of Love', 'Blueberry Hill', 'Palisades Park', and 'In The Still Of The Night'.  Without exception, these songs are complete wastes.  The flatter-than-Clare Danes 'Rock 'n' Roll Music' alone makes me feel like forgiving all of their Chuck Berry-isms of 15 years before. Compared to this, that stuff was golden arches. Way back then they were all fresh-faced, exuberant, and full of snot, but now they're like your drunken hippie-burnout uncle who decides he wants to start singing along with the stereo right in the middle of your kid's birthday party, then starts crying loudly for no reason before passing out in a kiddie pool with chocolate cake smeared all over his face and half-chewn candles stick in his beard. Hearing Dennis fumble his way through a version of 'In The Still...' so glossied up it makes a N'awlins transvestite hooker on Fat Tuesday look like Andy Rooney is just dishearenting.  No one who knows these originals should have any need for these silly cover versions.  We all know that Mike and Company just threw these on to have enough music to fill up an LP after Brian jumped ship, so let's not dwell on the issue.

The originals, all seven of 'em, are where the real trouble lies.  'It's Ok', featuring a pretty intense Brian presence (at least for this period) is a reasonable facsimile of good-timey Beach Boys music, though it swings about as easily as Ed Sullivan doing a corpse impersonation, and the very-Brian 'Had To Phone You' is oddly endearing as long as it concentrates on the melodies and the complex harmony interplay ala Smiley-Smile, though I feel the 'Cmon Cmon...Come on and answer the phone!' coda sounds a bit too Richard Ramirez for my taste.  Mike's sweetly-sung 'Everyone's In Love With You' is also a minor treat, which scores him now two albums in a row with one decent track each. Way to go, Mike. You're, umm...still a jackass. Sorry. The 'TM Song' is so terrible I bet it was even rejected by the Maharishi PR Department as a potential theme song...I'm supposed to believe a little deep-breathing and chanting is supposed to keep me out of conflict, like that ever-so-fakey sounding fight at the beginning? Whatever.  Some dude site down in a lotus position near ME and starts 'OM'-ing in my general vicinity and I'll make goddamn SURE there's some conflict.  Call me the anti-Maharishi.

The remaining tracks rank among some of the Boys' worst so far. Carl's (?) 'Talk To Me' is a tin-eared mess of doo-wop saxes and the most desultory lead vocal performance since Jack Klugman got throat cancer.  Al's That Same Song' is, if anything, MUCH worse...he grunts his way through a music history lesson while horns interject little obscenities in exactly the wrong spots and I lose interest trying to find a melody.  There's not one. I've checked. 'Susie Cincinnati' and 'Back Home' aren't so bad, but I'll bet you $50 you won't be able to remember what the hell they are by the time you've gotten 5 minutes away from this heap.

The Beach Boys' losing streak continues with 15 Big Ones, which is a sadly regressionist, reactionary record that repudiates whatever small ground was gained since around 1970. The number of encouraging spots here are few: Brian sounds more lost than 'back', Mike's started harping on his stupid religion again, and the others sound like they'd just as soon be back in the bar instead of the recording studio, not like they ever really knew what the hell they were doing in there anyway.  Sorry to be so harsh, but I'm beginning to doubt people like Dennis ever had any real talent or just got a lot of help from Brian, considering how marginalized he's become in the last several years.  The only really good thing I can say about this record is that it allowed the band to reconvene again the next year and put out an absolutely, positively okay record called The Beach Boys Love You. Whatever you do, don't get Big Ones before that one, and don't buy Aerosmith's Big Ones, either.  Talk about past-your-prime horseshit. Only if you find the kind of Big Ones that are attached to an actual, functioning girl within a standard deviation of your age should you actually shell out any money.  The rest can rot.

Capn's Final Word: These guys don't need Brian.  They need to figure out which drug sucked all their talent out and stop taking it.

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Steve     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: What's up? Brian was physically there, but far from "back." Even Dennis and Carl (may they both rest in peace) went on record in interviews as not liking it (they both blamed Mike for rushing it out too soon). The musical sound is the second most sterile I've heard on a Beach Boys' album (the first most sterile being, of course, the infamous SUMMER IN PARADISE). One small correction: Brian, not Al, is the one singing lead on "That Same Song." Otherwise, your review is right-on. This is a mediocre, if not totally awful, effort from a band trying to give the impression that it was still something it no longer was.
PEACE!  

 


Love You - Epic 1977

The Beach Boys Are Very, Very Weird. Brian's last creative gasp before his semi-comeback in the late-80's, Love You is an album full of songs by a fat guy with the mind of an 8-year old performed by cynical, drunken near-middle-aged rockers for clueless middle-aged housewives looking desperately for another 'Surfer Girl' and wondering when it was that those big hippies ate the sweet young Beach Boys.  Brian broke out his stupor just long enough to hook up with Dr. Eugene Landy, a semi-creep who at best saved Brian's life and at worst used a highly susceptible rich rock star to get him fame and songwriting credits...hey! Kinda like Charlie Manson, eh? The difference, of course, being that Landy was smarter than Uncle Chucky because instead of killing his host like, say, a nice African Brain Fluke, Landy just hung there and suckled a little blood whenever he felt like it. And it's cool. Not rockin' the house down, change-your-life cool, but Brian Wilson weird-melodic twist left-turn calliope music cool, enough to keep your interest for 35 minutes, anyway.  And what's more, Brian gets all his brothers in on the act to help out on lead vocals singing songs about finding wives among the Martians and slapping babies' butts instead of stupid crap about 50's rock or humming to yourself and calling it a religion. The best parts of Brian's talent are still here, as if this was the long-delayed sequel to Smile or something, as the close-cropped vocal harmonies, the thick arrangements, and his affecting, if quaky lead vocals are all here in force.  It's often entertaining enough just to sit back and listen to the care and thought put into the arrangements alone ('The Night Was So Young'), and just coast on Brian's fumes, realizing the difference between genius (Brian, even at his worst) and hackwork (the rest of the Beach Boys).  What's lacking though, is plain as day: the lyrics here are generally horrendous, but always unintentionally funny.  That's because many were by DR. JACK LANDY. Asshole was already insinuating himself into Brian's professional life for his own gain! Christ! He knew the man for less than a year and he's already encouraging Brian to fill up an album full of his idiotic baby lyrics.  Brian claims it was his decision to include this stuff that was written as a sort of therapeutic tool to break his creative blocks, but as far as I can tell, Brian couldn't tie his shoes without having someone tell him to do it.  So if you listen to this thing and find yourself laughing incredulously, blame the dude in the white coat who gets two checks each month from Brian - his doctor fee and his royalty check. 

There are moments, though, that for sure beat the daylights out of any 'Fire' or 'Vegetables' for the weirdest ever on a Beach Boys-related album.  This is simply an endlessly quotable album. There's simply nothing I can say about 'Roller Skating Child' other than just to quote the lyrics:

And we'll make sweet lovin' when the sun goes down
We'll even do more when your mama's not around
Well oh my oh gosh oh gee
She really send chills inside of me
 
Now call me uncreative, but if you're willing to make love to a 'child' when her mother is around, what 'more' can you do when she's gone? What kind of sick freakish wet-dream would be 
satisfied? Watching bootleg copies of Chuck Berry's home videos? Enrolling people into the Republican Party? Playing foosball? God, I really must find out what they were thinking!

From a song that invites you to pretty much mine your brain for whatever fill-in-the-blank obscenities you can dredge up to one that makes you feel completely nasty for even knowing those words, 'I Wanna Pick You Up' reads the mind of any parent who's ever gone gaga over a little baby, and presents them with absolutely no filter at all.  I mean, who ever says 'I wanna pat pat pat 'er on her butt! 'out loud? Sure, that butt is cute, and there's nothing better than that toothless little grin when you make a little baby happy, but isn't this a bit infantile, sort of like the kind of song a 4-year old would write about how Mommy takes care of a brand new brother or sister? What about this all coming from a guy who almost never spoke to his own children, even going so far as to literally disown them to his wife when he realized he was never going to make a good father? There's disconnects just like that one all over this album like Suzanne Sommers on a bucket of fried chicken. The ode to Johnny Carson is a weird hybrid of 'Be True To Your School' and Smiley Smile and ends up as a not-kidding paeon to the man who made paying someone to sit next you you and laugh at your jokes an art form.  This is a veritable weird-lyric goldmine all of it's own. I'm sure you'll find something in there that makes your jaw drop or your head shake.  Will it be 'Johnny Carson...he speaks in such a manly tone'? or 'When guests are boring he takes up the slack, the network makes him break his back' (pretty funny considering when I used to see his show, Jay Leno or Joan Rivers hosted it four nights a week anyway), or will it be my personal favorite, 'Who's the man that we admire? Johnny Carson's a real live wire!'

Not everything sounds like Keyboarding Practice At The Loonie Bin, though (a few of the songs, especially on the quieter second half, are downright normal) and the melodies are very...solidly...there in a way that just hasn't happened for a goddamn long time. Instrumentally, Brian obsesses on synthesizers in such a way that everything either is an organ, a synthesized organ, or a synthesized organ run though a pitch shifter as a substitute for a bass guitar. It's all part of the whole 'wacky' vibe, though, and I'll tell you...it's not what caught my attention on this album.  The vocals are spread nicely among all the Beach Boys, though we get a heavy dose of Brian's halfway-between-Dennis-and-Carl voice, just so you'll remember what a semi-crazy guy sounds like. 

Capn's Final Word: The Boys strangest album since Smiley Smile, which was also the last one their crackpot former leader penned solo.  There must be a pattern here.

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Jude Bolton     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: At the height of my Beach-Boys-obsessed period, I truly wanted to be like Brian Wilson. (ie Time To Get Alone In My Room Busy Doing Nothing). I remember the Saturday nights spend in bed reading the Heroes & Villians biography.

Blah. I LOVE this album. I love the warm feelings that come through in Brian's songwriting, and here we have a FULL album for the first time since like Pet Sounds. In that period Brian's songwriting had been so consistently strong (but so sporadic), so Love You can almost be
guaranteed a classic album just by reading the songwriting credits.

The songs live up to the hype too. Childlike lyrics, synth heavy production, hoarse vocal performance... wonderful songs. Put in red: Let Us Go On This Way, Mona, Honkin Down The Highway, I'll Bet He's Nice, Let's Put Our Hearts Together, and I Wanna Pick You Up.


 


M.I.U. - Epic 1978

If you've been waiting for the Beach Boys to get back to their roots, you oughta get your silverware ready 'cos it's time to start digging in.  The unfortunately titled M.I.U. (for Maharishi International University, but don't worry. As much as you may doubt me, this isn't Friends II) is a second, more successful attempt at creating a 100% lightweight, nostalgic cabbage marshmallow of an album, just like what they used to make back when their kidneys weren't all crystallized over with undigested cocaine molecules - thirty minutes long and crammed full of stupid novelty songs. 15 Big Ones ain't got nothin' on this for cheap idealistic nostalgia, which from here on out is the Beach Boys' main export. As of Love You, Brian's back on the wane from which he'd never return as a major force in the band. Dennis and Carl are now almost completely lost, and Bruce Johnston, of all people has launched a comeback.  This is now firmly Mike and Al's personal plaything, and any knowledge of what they're all about should give you enough information to fill in the blanks on this bee-yatch.  Mike loves his minimalist 1964 recreations, and since it ain't 1971 anymore, he's leaving his sociopolitical stance in his other pants.  He's happier just a-boppin' and a-bippin', singin' 'bout the Kona Coast and how we just don't get strung out on love no more than worrying his pretty little solar-paneled head about that darn ol' ecology. Needless to say, this album is fit to be some sort of Lord of the Trite, all soft-rock harmlessness and good-timey safeitudes, and while it's pleasant, you know that's exactly where you stand and there ain't much more there there.  Only 'Hey, Little Tomboy' gets any weird spillover from Beach Boys Love You. This is where the boys decide to feminize some darn rough-houser of a girl, forcing lipstick and frilly little lacy things on her until I no longer can think of anything but the harsher moments of Boys Don't Cry when whatzername is forced to say the word 'vagina'. It's godawful weird, but after the love-poem to Johnny Carson and the Michael Jackson pastiches on Love You, it ain't nothin' fancy. Other than that, it's softer than a carnival teddy bear and smells just as rotten.  They cover 'Come Go With Me' and perform quite possibly the worst version of 'Peggy Sue' I've heard since they lowered that microphone down into Buddy Holly's grave and recorded the sounds of earthworms mating for 15 hours.

M.I.U....sigh. It sucks? Of course it sucks.  The important thing is that it doesn't suck enough for me to hate it. I'll just never remember a goddamn thing about it, that's all. These dudes just sound completely spent, though the production is decent compared to its closest relative so far, 15 Big Ones. M.I.U.'s preferable because there's fewer covers and some of the mid-tempo rockers almost qualify as surf-y ('Pitter Patter', 'Kona Coast'), if they weren't so damned moldy. Why should I care? Beach Boys fanatics'll probably even have a rough time getting into it. But then again what do I know? I hated Holland, so it's darned possible that people think this is similarly 'maligned', but somehow I doubt it.

Capn's Final Word: Pleasantry, which I suppose is better than unpleasantry, but is probably not preferable to pheasantry.

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L.A. (Light Album) - Epic 1979.

There's a defensible position on Light Album, one that I'm not willing to take, that says the unbearable lightness of Love (Mike, that is) is actually able to create a sort of romantic, comforting mood that's hard to find on all those Motorhead and Anal Snot Bubble albums you insist on buying all the time. Therefore, the Lovers and Apologists claim, it's not a total waste of money to go an track it down.  As if, hey! Just because the Beach Boys never did an album this muted before it somehow pays off to spend several days scouring record racks to find it, plunk down the $20 or whatever gouge the old gay guy at the counter wants for the damn thing, take it home, put it on your stereo, and listen to it for forty minutes just to prove to yourself that yes, this band can record a long-ass album of Bruce Johnston tracks just because it wants to.  Well, whatever. This is yet another Brian Wilson Stamp Of Disapproval Stay The Hell Away records (like Carl and the Passions. If the guy hadn't loved that brain-freezing Friends so damned much I'd fucking say listen to his opinion, but he did so I'll say just judge for yourself.  1979. Beach Boys. What about that says quality to you?).  Whatever.  Perhaps you like listening to late-70's glop so corny as to make the Starland Vocal Band sound like Burzum. Even with this damning prognosis (and you should definitely view it as damning), some tiny morsels of goodness can be found.  'Angel Come Home' is almost a good song, made better by Dennis's still-gripping vocals that sound like Elvis Costello if Elvis Costello smoked freebase and stayed up for a week and a half straight, and, well, that's it.  The rest is like a black fly in your chardonnay, a death row pardon two minutes too late, rain on your wedding day.  Not ironic. Just dull bummers only a closeted lesbian former child actress with thighs chunkier than Jiff peanut butter would find interesting.  Mike Love sings in Japanese.  Watch me lazily pick my teeth with a bent-up paperclip out of uncontrollable exhilaration at that am-MAY-zing fact. The Brian track, 'Shortenin' Bread', can't hold a candle to the 20-minute Alice Cooper/Iggy Pop version Brian led at a party back around 1970, though they try sadly to 'rock it up' anyway (Anyone taking bets saying it actually rocks?).  It's 'Shortenin' Bread', goddamn it, not 'Beat On The Brat'! No one should care! Hear me? NO ONE SHOULD CARE!! Just because Brian lent his morbidly obese self to the track DOESN'T MAKE IT ANY GOOD. Don't delude yourself! Plus, any band that extends a halfway decent album track from almost ten years before into an ELEVEN-PLUS MINUTE EXTENDED DISCO SINGLE THAT TAKES THE GOOD NAME OF 'HERE COMES THE NIGHT' AND DRAGS IT THROUGH THE MUD AND THE BLOOD AND THE PUS LIKE THIS is just about FIVE seconds from being STRUNG UP from a HIGH TREE on a JUMPY HORSE, if you 'shoot' my 'pianny plarr', and I think you do. Disco is all well and good if you're a gay cokehead polyester investor in 1977, but no one needs to go poking around this particular fossil site anymore.  You might just awaken Giorgio Moroder, and then we can ALL kiss our asses goodbye. No really, parts of 'Here Comes the Night' actually sound like Devo.  Go pay twenty bucks for a specially ordered remaster CD of this album so you can listen intently and then realize you just wasted money that could've gone towards food, shelter, drugs, or companionship on a twenty-five year old failure of an album that failed to chart and was a major embarrassment to the big nutty loon with the lax personal hygiene and the love of fried steaks.

Capn's Final Word: Quiet times. May I suggest a nap?

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Keepin' The Summer Alive - Epic 1980

My quandary grows. How exactly am I supposed to tell if this is worse than Lame Album or M.I.A.? Rest assured it isn't a damn bit of good, and even the Lovers and Apologists have a rough enough time defending this album...when exactly does it become pointless for any of the rest of us to even remember it exists? Ah well...let's give this nasty bitch a couple of token lines and let it be. Again, it'd take some effort to track this album down, and you can bet your local corporate electrono-media-monstrosity isn't going to stock it.  C'mon...look at the cover.  A gloppy painting of our fallen angels playing inside a geodesic dome in the middle of the Arctic? If there is a better example of how out-of-touch the Beach Boys were in the late 1970's and 1980's, I dunno what it is. What would these guys live off of? Tropical weed and coconut wine? Well, if you insist, but if they ever get a little short on crops I bet Brian starts to look pretty yummy there in his out-of-control fatness. But who would like an album that looks like this, anyway? I'd think it'd actually drive shoppers to go to different aisles just so they wouldn't have to look at it, kinda like Yes's nauseating Tormato cover. Something you could never claim about M.I.A. or Light Album was that they were aesthetically repulsive...creepy, we-love-the-Leader album titles, sure, but I'd rather look at a sunset or a bunch of postcards anyway over five hippie burnouts stuck in one of the Silent Running bubbles, except without a merciful Bruce Dern to sic some murderous android slaves on 'em.

As for the music, this is M.I.U. 2 (or, retroactively 15 Big Ones Part III, or Holy Crap, People Still Buy Our Concert Tickets? But Our Voices Are So Shot From Years Of Smoking 'Base That We Sound Like Manatee Mating Calls. You All Must Be Really Stupid To Keep Giving A Shit About Us), clueless rockers sharing space with clueless covers sharing space with clueless ballads, all wrapped up in a sickening attempt to keep current, circa 1980. Disco was dead, so they instead attempt to cannibalize the corpse of slick urban cowboy country ('Livin' With A Heartache') and glossy 50's-tinged fascist-pop ala the Grease soundtrack. The band top (bottom) their very own worst cover moment (Chuck Berry's 'Rock and Roll Music' from 15 Big Ones) by recording another basic rock classic by the same artist and making it even more inarticulate and stiff-jointed ('School Days'). There's plenty of Bruce Johnston-penned slowness throughout, proving that the Man Who Would Be Lobo has still not stopped in his quest to beat Al Jardine in being the least interesting Beach Boy ever.  After his 'success' on the last album, Bruce's also allowed to produce, which is kind of like giving your toddler the keys to the family Cadillac because he didn't stab the family cat with a pair of scissors as many times as he did the day before, but don't get me started.  His jerked arrangements are proof enough that the guy shouldn't be let near a control board, and his buttery bun 'Endless Harmony' shows pens are probably a no-no as well. 'Harmony' the closest thing to a 'hit' song here, but only because I always hear it mentioned as if it's not a complete mushy pooplog, which is most definitely is.  You'd think with a title like that, it'd HAVE to be good, but you'd be wrong like the O.J. Simpson jury...this is one of the lowest moments ever for the band, a point at which they drop so deeply into the toilet of Barry Manillow sappiness that you actually prefer Barry.  At least 'Mandy', and a lot of the man's other songs, had melodies.  I heard a melody once made a passing glance at Keepin' the Summer Alive, but quickly turned the other way, hopinh it wouldn't come up and try to buy her a drink or something.  Melody would rather hang out with fucking Fred Durst than THIS pieceashit.

Okay, I've already gone on long enough.  There's really a limited number of things you can say about a bad album before going all Mark Prindle all over the place and talking about the Bobsey Twins or Zoloft or the WTC disaster for six paragraphs.  It's bad.  You shouldn't buy it.  This isn't the Beach Boys...only a fool or a completist would go to the trouble or expense of finding this thing.

Capn's Final Word: Time to unplug the feeding machine, boys.

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The Beach Boys - Epic 1985.

Five years later, one Brother down (poor drunken Dennis, fired from the band and pointless, dying a real Beach Boys' death, drowning in shallow water after taking so many drugs people ground up his corpse and smoked it a few weeks after he died), and not one goddamn bit better. Synthesizers have done eaten Brian, who makes only a token appearance on this record (the falsetto on the opening single 'Getcha Back' is his) despite being most of the way through his road to recovery at the hands of Dr. Eugene 'Dirty' Landry and looking better than he has since the Johnson Administration.  M.I.U. sounded like a Beach Boys cover band and Keepin' The Summer Alive sounded like a bad Beach Boys cover band, but this sounds like a couple of cheap Wal-Mart keyboards simulating the Beach Boys. Nothing here sounds real, from the 'Mutt' Lange massed harmony vocal treatments to the ker-hlunk gated drums, this is programmed by some nerdy MIT (MIU?) Comp Sci grad to attempt the impossible - make the Beach Boys palatable to the average 14-year old Wham! and Cyndi Lauper fan.  The problem is not so much that this music is synthesized, which I can accept considering how much cocaine everyone was taking in the early 80's (hell...you can't be expected to do something as trivial  play instruments when you've gotta suck from a glass dick every 3 to 4 minutes, not when you have Korg and Roland to take care of it for you, now can you?), it's that this instrumental backing could have been prepared for anybody. I hear no difference between this music and that of, say, Hall and Oates of the same period.  'Riffs' are nonexistent, replaced by derivations of old boogie licks drained of all blood and bile until they resemble, well, Hall and Oates. 

Funnily enough, some of the songs aren't so totally awful despite sounding all Olivia Newton John in a Joan Jett world. 'Getcha Back' has some catchy harmonies, and Brian's fractured falsetto is almost worth tracking this song down.  Brian's 'Male Ego' almost feels like a throwback to the Love You days, and has some of the band's best doowop in years. Otherwise it's a nostalgia trip, but so is everything this band touched from 1978 onward. There are two abso-tooten-lutely pointless guest spots, Stevie Wonder honks harp on his Air Supply-soundalike 'I Do Love You' and Boy George gushes on and on for the hopelessly lengthy bleached electro-soul 'Passing Friend', both of which rank as some of the worst songs on here.  But there's others, don't you worry! Don't go rushing down to the corner, yelling, 'there's only TWO bad songs on the Beach Boys' self-titled 1985 album, so everybody give me their wallets!' It's Just A Matter Of Time' floats away into the ballad ether despite harmonica by Willie Nelson's harmonica player, and Mike's 'California Calling' kicks off a streak of disgraceful self-cannibalization that will absolutely sink this bands' later, post-Brian records.

Capn's Final Word: The last legitimate Beach Boys album, but they've been illegitimate a LONG time already.

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Still Cruisin' - Epic 1989

The last two Beach Boys studio albums, made after Brian completed his treatment and finally ducked out for good to pursue his infinitely more interesting solo career, are so wonderful I hear they use them to cure tumors and infection in third world countries simply by laying the CD on the area above where the sickness lies.  I've heard stories that tumors actually dig their way out of the skin to avoid any further contact with these records.  Of course, care must be taken that the patient not actually view the process, or even glance at the cover of the CD, because they've been known to claw their eyes out when they see that they're actually having to touch such an abomination. Seriously...the process lasts about 30 seconds, maximum, which is about 15 more seconds than it took me to realize this album is a total heap of donkey boogers.  But Mike Love apparently wanted it this way, or he wouldn't have compiled the Boys' last few years worth of yucky movie soundtrack contributions and a couple of rereleases of good Beach Boys songs  from days back when this band's music didn't cause me to throw up in my mouth just a little bit every time I hear it.  This isn't really an album, it's a compilation, but hell...I'm already several dozen albums through this stupid band, I may as well finish 'em off for good. 

Mike Love must've been willing to pimp his band out to whatever godforsaken Hollywood production that came down the ol' assembly line.  Just take a quick little peek-a-boo at the movies represented on Still Cruisin' (For A Big Gay Dick To Rub Between My Greased Buttocks). I mean, Lethal Weapon II was alright (and that South African chick with the caramel-colored nipples was pretty fucking steamy), but Cocktail, fer Chrissakes? It's like Showgirls without the exposed labia and gratuitous lesbian sex. What, I'm supposed to mention how great an actor Tom Cruise is? Okay, he was good in Rain Man, but that's only because he was playing a selfish asswipe, which about as much a stretch as Courtney Love playing a junkie slut in People vs. Larry Flynt. Most of the time, though, Tom Cruise just looks like he's wincing because the twelve-inch metal buttplug he's got rammed in his colon is starting to chafe. Troop Beverly Hills, starring Shelly Long, the least attractive woman ever to appear on my television set who wasn't on Golden Girls? Please. Let's just say that the songs associated with these movies are just as fucking awful as the movies themselves, or else they wouldn't have gotten the fucking Beach Boys, a band that hadn't been decent in at least ten years, to contribute to their soundtrack.  They couldn't have coughed up a couple grand more and at least gotten Michael McDonald, another well-known soundtrack whore, to do something? That's taking cost-cutting a little far.

What I meant to say is, this album is a gentle shower of diseased dog pus on each of our heads.  The production, by Terry Melcher (Who? Don't ask me 'cos I don't know, but I think his name has been bandied around in the company of Paul Revere and the Raiders), is somehow more artificial than last time rather than less, as each of these tracks sounds like it was recorded in a high school gym somewhere.  The hit here was 'Kokomo', from that bartender piecashit, and was the song which somehow gave Mike the idea that it was cool to stand up in front of a ballroom full of his musical peers and bash the Beatles for fifteen minutes during his Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction speech because his band had a hit on the charts and the Beatles broke up twenty years before, which is sort of like the Ziggy cartoonist claiming he's superior to Pablo Picasso because he sells more books. Really, though, it's a horrible affront to music, even worse than 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' from the same year (now tell me, can you name a WORSE year for music than 1987? Listening to the radio was something damn close to putting your skull in a vice and having your buddy give it a half turn every three minutes. Except the pain never got worse than on 'Kokomo', which gives a new meaning to the word 'nasally', as if Mike had his mouth sewn shut just to sound even more like the Biggest Asshole On The Face Of The Earth while singing lead. But this is what the Beach Boys were about in 1987, and the massive success of this thing just encouraged them to make every last new song an attempt to Xerox 'Kokomo'.  What the band wasn't about was rap/pop crossover, though not for lack of trying.  The Beach Boys aren't Aerosmith, and the Fat Boys aren't Run DMC, and the whitest of white pop bands and the silliest of bad rap bands collaborating on a cover of 'Wipe Out' probably set back the cause of race relations ten years all by it's lonesome.  What they don't tell you about the 1992 LA riots is that most of the crowds didn't go all West Bank on their local pawn shop because of an unjust Rodney King verdict, but because of 'Wipe Out'.  I also have a theory that the big bearded white trucker that was pulled out of his rig and beaten to death in the middle of an intersection was really Dennis, who faked his own drowning in 1983 so he could follow his life-long dream of driving delivery trucks, but that's yet to be confirmed.

Capn's Final Word: Look at this cover. Okay, enough.  Whaddya think? Don't buy this either.

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Summer In Paradise  - Epic 1992.

And the shits just keep on coming.  Summer For Parasites is a rock-bottom Mike Love solo album masquerading as a rock-bottom Beach Boys release, and has to rank as the worst thing to come out under the band's name.  You can't blame Brian, because he'd cut himself loose, you can't blame Dennis, because he was dead, but you CAN blame John Stamos, from TV's high-larious ABC TGIF gentle family sit-com Full House, about a closeted gay father (American Funniest Home Videos host Bob 'Hiding Severed Bodyparts In His Dressing Room Fridge' Saget, whom I may remind you has a last name that rhymes with 'faggot', and not one that sounds like 'Sah-gay', though both are so goddamned apropos I can't help myself from crying), his two live-in lovers (oh yeah, like Stamos isn't supposed to be 'the leather guy'), and three nauseating daughters, including Kirk Cameron's (who you may remember from such gripping religious-programming dramas as God Sees You Every Time You Touch Yourself and C4 In My Lunchbox and Jesus In My Heart: A Children's Crusade For A New Millennium) fatass sister Candace and the insectoid sunken-eyed sideshow-freak Olsen twins (whomever decided these girls were attractive needs to stop spanking off to training bra ads in the Wal-Mart flyer). Stamos, like the assmonkey he is, plays drums and SINGS DENNIS WILSON'S CLASSIC BALLAD 'FOREVER' LIKE PEOPLE WON'T KNOW HE'S CANNIBALIZING FROM A DEAD BEACH BOY. Good Christ! How low do you have to stoop? Already the only people who are going to buy this album are Beach Boys addicts who can't stop themselves from letting Mike Love give 'em a good punch in the testicles every few years, and not a damn one of them isn't going to know that Dennis Wilson originally wrote and sang this song, and that some stupid sit-com actor is now shitting all over it because he doesn't have enough talent to sing or say anything that someone else hasn't written down for him. Good move, Kasparovs.

Anyway, enough about people who aren't Mike Love.  This guy, who clinches the clueless jock award now for the twentieth year running, spends half of Summer In Paradise attempting to rewrite 'Kokomo', half of the time on dimbulb covers of classic songs he has no right coming within 50 yards of ('Hot Fun In The Summertime'), half of the time covering his own half of the time attempting to rewrite the second part (the worst one) of the California Saga in a fit of simpering post-hippie drone.  If the math doesn't add up, it's just because this album seems to take twice as long as it's supposed to. None of these songs is worth a goddamn, because it's all just derivatives of the same old broken-down junk this band'd been trundling out for fifteen years already.  The production is still 80's plastic, all fake-dumbdrums and 'ear candy' production gimmicks, and sounds horribly, horribly wrong.  Just against nature, like the fact that dunderhead retrograde jerkoff Mike Love somehow got to outlast all three Wilson brothers and Al Jardine and somehow inherit the Beach Boys band as his own.  Disgusting, is what it is, and this album is every bit as awful as anyone who's been paying attention has any right to expect it to be. Luckily it's been 12 years since the release of this obscenity, and Love's not made any moves to reconvene his band of nobodies and record a new studio album, one that would very well qualify for one of the very few F's I'd give an album with actual chords and lyrics.  Until then, try your best to keep your dollars out of Mike Love's pockets.

Capn's Final Word: Mike Love's Nadir. Lemme say that again...Mike Love's Nadir.

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Miami Dan  miamidan@bellsouth.net   Your Rating: C+
Any Short Comments?: As funny as I found your comments about Bob Saget and the Full House crowd to be (and I quite agree with your take on Saget & Co.), the only "horribly wrong" thing about this album is your review of it.  The impression I get from reading your review of SIP is that you appear to hve some raging personal vendetta against Mike Love - like maybe he plucked some blonde hottie out of a concert crowd that you had your eyes on.  In the first place, while Love's signature is undoubtedly all over SIP, it is hardly a "Mike Love solo album masquerading as a rock-bottom Beach Boys release".  The voices of Al Jardine, Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston are prominent in many of the tracks on this record.  The fact that you have virtually no specific criticisms of any of the songs makes me wonder if you've ever even heard this record.  For example, the track "Still Surfin'" is a wonderful throwback to the band's best work of the early 60's.  If this track had a B. Wilson songwriting credit it would have likely been hailed as a triumph.  Carl Wilson's vocal work on "Lahaina Aloha" is another gem contained in SIP.  The album also has its share of duds - I agree with your assessment of the remake of "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and the lyrics on "Summer of Love" make me cringe.  Although I'm a huge fan of the Beach Boys, I still rate this album a C+ because it clearly suffers in any comparison with their best work.  I would never cite this album as an example of the Beach Boys best recorded material.  At the same time, though, there are at least 6 tracks on here that I love to listen to on a warm summer evening when the grill's fired up and the beer is cold.  Your complete dismissal of SIP as "Mike Love's nadir" is, in my opinion, far too harsh and ignores the hidden treasures in the album.  Your "review" makes it seem as if you've simply spliced together the harshest criticisms that
the elite rock press had of the worst parts of the album that you could find as opposed to having actually listened to the work enough yourself to have formed an educated opinion.  On the other hand, you're spot on with your comments about Saget the faggot.

(Capn's Response: Wrong.)


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