Brian Wilson Presents Smile
A review by Mike D'Ariano

The aborted Smile 1967
The new release 2004
Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson Smile
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! Un-freakin-bearable!

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 just music.