ALL THESE YEARS MIKE LOVE WAS RIGHT
Brian Wilson Presents Smile
A review by Mike D'Ariano
aborted Smile 1967
new release 2004
First thing's first. Before you old codgers
get started on how I was born in the late seventies and how I really
had to be there to understand the music of the late sixties, I want
to remind everyone that I'm a pretty hardcore fan of the Beatles,
and The Stones, and that I probably know more about Dylan than 99%
of the people that were there at The Gaslight in '62 or Philharmonic
Hall in '64 or The Royal Albert Hall in '66, or trampin' across his
front lawn in '69. On top of that, I know, understand, and love the
music of Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Son House, Jimmy Rodgers (both
of them), and scores of other artists that were around before YOU
were born, so your argument holds no water. That said I just want
to point out one more little thing Brian Wilson's Smile was
released in the fall of 2004, not 1967, and I would say I have a pretty
good grasp on the music of that era.
On to the album . . .
Now I know Mr. Wilson has had some issues in
the past with being over-medicated, by both himself and his doctor,
but Jesus Christ, couldn't someone get the guy some Ritalin when he
was recording or re-recording or whatever the hell he was doing in
the studio for this album? I don't think there's a two minute span
anywhere on the record that doesn't contain a radical sonic shift
from say Brian singing alone at a piano, to say six Brian's singing
with a tuba, a xylophone, a piano, drums and some bells going off.
Listening to this record is like watching a mildly retarded seven
year old coloring with the big box of crayons, the one that has more
colors than he could possibly ever need. The kid feels the need to
use all the colors, and erratically at that, even if it wrecks his
picture in the end. Brian applies the same principal on this album,
using every overdub, instrument, and sound effect available to him,
even though it makes the album wildly cluttered and mostly incoherent.
Then just when you think it can't get more annoying, enter barnyard
animal noises, slide whistles, sirens, nonsense words, and goofy ass
lyrics about how much this freakin vegetable likes to eat vegetables!
On the other hand . . .
There's something to be said for crazy ass music
that doesn't give a shit if you like it or think it makes sense or
not. Lou Reed's all feedback album, Metal Machine Music, probably
rules supreme in that regard, but most of Zappa's catalogue makes
the list along with Les Claypool's music, George Clinton's stuff,
and a good part of the silly crap the world fell in love with on the
latter Beatles albums. One of Smile's contemporaries that had actually
been released in the 60's about an imaginary band wearing multi-colored
army uniforms comes to mind. That said, I've played the album in a
crowded room, and enjoyed watching people walk past me with that "What
the hell is this crap" look on their faces, and with repetition,
I've learned to enjoy sections of the album immensely, if for no other
reason than the sheer fuck all grandness of it.
So . . .
Is Smile a 5-Star "classic" as Rolling
Stone described it? I kinda doubt it, but is it the piece of garbage
that ten's of thousands of aging Beach Boy fans expecting Wouldn't
It Be Nice Part 2 are going to think it is? Nope, not that either.
So what is it? I'd have to go with just another album by an idiot
genius that folks may or may not enjoy or simply put, it's