Monday, September 13, 2004

Too Advanced? I'll Be the Judge of That

There was an article this weekend in the NY Times about "Smile," the album that Brian Wilson said was supposed to be "a teenage symphony to God." In the article he says, "It was finally ready to be finished, ready to be accepted.... We thought it was too advanced for people at that time. We think people are now ready to understand where it was coming from. Back then, no one was ready for it." In earlier interview he said, "I thought it was too weird, I thought it was too druggie influenced, I thought the audience wouldn't get it." So he says it was too advanced, but it sounds to me like it was too overt. Brian Wilson wrote much better music when he was channeling the Four Preps and collaborating with Mike Love. When I listen to "Heroes and Villains," for instance, it just sounds like a good Beach Boys song that loses its momentum because Wilson needed to show his genius. The break in the action on that song is really nothing more than the psychedelic breakdown that every amateur songwriter puts in instead of a real bridge. But Brian Wilson had better singers and musicians than your average guy, so the breakdowns sound pretty decent. But they are just as pointless.

1 comment:

Sean said...

I respectfully disagree, on all points. To fully explain why would require an essay several times longer than your post. But it seems to me that your reaction to Brian Wilson's post-"Summer Days and Summer Nights" work is an example of how advancement theory may break down in the face of artistic relativity (e.g., "there's no accounting for taste").

The Smile debacle can be read as you've outlined it, but it can also easily be read in terms of an artist who has swiftly advanced beyond his closest associates' ability to appreciate. Or perhaps I've misunderstood the theory at some fundamental level.

I will say this: to hear anything Brian Wilson had to say about why he abandoned Smile in terms of anything other than his own emotional defense -- to think it's something in any way approaching historical fact -- is a mistake. To use such statements against him is just mean.