Brian Wilson Smile
How do you write a follow-up to Pet Sounds? Such was the dilemma of The Beach Boys architect Brian Wilson, who, at the time, was getting pulled in a variety of musical directions.
First, there was his experimental ambitions, fueled by a consistent diet of hallucinogenics as well as his partnership with composer and lyricist Van Dyke Parks that began in 1966. There was also the loud, disapproving choir of bandmates, fans and record company executives clamoring for the simple pop music days of yore. He’d eventually fail to satisfy both, and put out nothing. But before the stress and frustration of the various influencing voices in his life became too much to take, Wilson worked on SMiLE: a psychedelic rock collage of disjointed Americana– from the prairies to the tropics to the cities and then back again.
He famously scrapped the project in 1967, but some of its fundamental pieces would come out in drips and drabs on various Beach Boys releases: “Cabin Essence” thrown in the middle of the otherwise uneven 20/20, “Wind Chimes” in wispy, stripped-down form on the haphazardly compiled Smiley Smile. Even album centerpiece “Surf’s Up” got a whole record named after it. These small bits of insight would only further the mystery.
In 2004, Wilson went back into the studio with Parks and a new band to rerecord his masterpiece, allowing for the album’s initially-intended arc to finally come to realization. Upon the 10th anniversary of that record – titled Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE – we provide our own deconstruction, compiling a list of pros and cons in reference to the original Beach Boys demos (which finally saw a proper release in 2011) as well as the album’s overall folklore. And, of course, there’s the following overarching question: Does the 2004 release do justice to SMiLE’s legend or should the record have just remained a series of enigmatic scraps?More:
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