Album Reviews

    Let’s imagine: no nervous breakdown, no 1970s spent in a bed, no refusal to return to an abandoned masterpiece.

    Had Brian Wilson recorded and released Smile in 1967 at age 25, the Beach Boys would have shared best-album-ever honors with the Beatles. In this alternate reality, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would represent the apex of British rock ’n’ roll, and Smile would be the apex of American (more specifically, Californian) psychedelia.

    However, this is 2004, and 37 years have passed since Wilson walked away from Smile. His voice has aged over those 37 years, and these innocent songs carry differently when sung by an old man. Nonetheless, this album is musically perfect. Wilson’s songwriting and producing skills are genius. Lush vocals and fine-tuned instrumentation weave together youthful, tragically comedic songs about life, love and America. The album is musically rooted in old-time American traditions: folk, jazz, ad jingles, Aaron Copeland, barbershop quartets, banjoes, cartoons, cannabis, saloon pianos and, of course, surf guitar.

    Wilson can sleep easy, for he has finally formulated a response to the Beatles’ “pop-music-as-art” epics, Revolver/Sgt. Pepper’s, with his own headphone masterpieces Pet Sounds and Smile. Let’s pretend it came out in ’67 and enjoy it.

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