Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Where There's Smoke...

My good friend Sal Nunziato, formerly of the world's greatest indie record store NYCD, and of late of The Huffington Post, has just started his own music blog.

It's called Burning Wood and if you have any sense you'll go over there right now and give him some love.

Sal's a great writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of just about every kind of vernacular American music there is, so obviously I hate his guts. But at least he saved me the trouble of reviewing the new Brian Wilson album.




There's a scene in Annie Hall where some third-rate comedian is looking to hire Alvy Singer as a joke writer. Woody Allen's character sits in horror, wearing that "frozen smile," as this buffoon preens and prances his way through some embarrassing schtick, to show Alvy, the potential employee, the kind of material he needs. This "frozen smile" is the exact expression that remained on my face for the entire 38 minutes of "That Lucky Old Sun," the new release from Brian Wilson. I couldn't believe my ears.

I will set the record straight. I love the Beach Boys. You know, many don't. Some hear "I Get Around" and "Fun Fun Fun," and, well...all of the Boys' 60's hits as nothing but novelty songs for summer. (They are wrong, of course) More than a few have never even heard a note from the groundbreaking 70's albums "Holland," "Surf's Up," and "Sunflower." And really, is there a more perfect pop tune than "Don't Worry Baby?" I think not. Brian Wilson is a legend, a genius, one of the world's greatest composers and a national treasure.

That said, I have no problem tossing aside those accomplishments like a half-eaten chicken wing when the bleu cheese is gone, once I listen to any of Brian Wilson's solo work...


Read the rest of it here.

3 comments:

dave™© said...

I haven't heard the album yet, but I heard the demos over the summer and they were great. Is Brian going to sound like the 24 year old who sang on "Pet Sounds"? Nope. Does a 66-year-old artist have some interesting things to say? Yes. And frankly, I'm more willing to listen to him than Jagger or Richards at this point...

steves said...

I'm with Sal all the way on this.

I'm ecstatic that Brian has resurfaced and seems, in large part, content. But try as I might, I can't force myself to enjoy his recent output (aside from parts of Smile).

Sadly, I feel the same way about "modern" Bob Dylan, an artist I held in even higher regard than Wilson.

Gardner said...

Steverino, listen and decide for yourself. "Orange Crate Art" is a lot better than Sal says. "Smile" is mostly fantastic when judged on its own merits. (If you want the spooky "Smile," listen to the boots and the bits that have been released. If you want proof that great art doesn't have to mean suicide, listen to the recent completion.) "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" has some great stuff on it. The solo debut has some fine stuff on it as well but it's marred by the Eugene Landy factor.

Sal's implicitly dismissing "The Beach Boys Love You," which is folly in my view. That's the record I think of as Brian's first solo album. Great collaborators of course.

That said, I agree that Brian's made some clinkers. But then so did the Beach Boys. I treasure Orson Welles' movies not because they're all as good as "Citizen Kane," but because almost all of them have within them a large part of what made "Citizen Kane" great.

It's also good to remember that lots of folks dismissed Brian's late-60's and early-70's work because of a similar inability to parse the art....

My .02!