The term “living legend” gets thrown around carelessly at times, but if that’s the title to be bestowed upon Brian Wilson, it is well deserved and it’s the honest-to-God-truth. Brian Wilson is the heart, brain and soul behind the legendary Beach Boys music group.
Brian’s genius goes beyond song writing as he is also one of the most talented producers who ever lived. He seemingly re-introduced how to use a recording studio in the 1960’s and even while making pop music, he never strayed away from being different and trying new things. He is a master of drawing up harmonies and is also a master at tugging at the listener’s hearts.
Brian has over-come a lot in his life (check his bio, it’s way too much to get into now) and at 72 years of age, the living legend has released his eleventh studio album “No Pier Pressure.”
Brian is the brainchild behind songs that have withstood the test of time “Good Vibrations,” “I Get Around,” “God Only Knows,” “California Girls” — the list literally goes on and on and on. . . So what can Brian’s genius bring us in 2015? In a world run by dub step and auto tune, Brian steps in calm and confident in his approach on “No Pier Pressure.”
Brian’s voice is not what it once was, but he still can knock out a steady melody and still sings with one of the most honest tones ever. For those clamoring a Beach Boys-type of sound, look no further than “Our Special Love” which features Peter Hollens and opens with a sweet acapella harmony that comes equipped with highs and lows to perfection.
Even when the drums come in after the intro, the harmonies stay consistent in the back ground of the verses – never drowning out the lead vocal. Peter Hollens’ vocals are a nice contrast to Brian’s and the song itself comes off as the smoothest sounding track off “No Pier Pressure.”
“Guess You Had to Be Here” features vocals from Kacey Musgraves and is an uptempo track with a southern appeal to it. The song talks about just trying to live in the moment and dealing with the after affects of life when they come up: “Well I guess you had to be there / All we wanted was more / There were winners and losers / and people passed out on my floor.”
Even after all these years, Brian has the innate ability to speak on the topic of love with the innocence of a naive young man.
He does this on the track “Tell Me Why” which features his old Beach Boys band-mate, Al Jardine. “I think about, that ocean view / And all the dreams I shared with you / I guess they won’t be coming true / at least for you and me / but now you’re gone and I’ve gotta move on with my life. . .”
It’s as if Brian recollects memories from his youth as a boy staring at the ceiling from his bed wondering if he’ll cross paths with the girl who’s left him alone with his feelings.
There are some moments on the album when the features or the songs don’t work at all. One of those moments comes early with “Runaway Dancer” which features Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities sounds like a song trapped in a synthesizer’s nightmare. The digital bass drum has no place and the song’s layout is below Brian Wilson standards.
It’s just easier to blame Sebu Simonian for influencing this entire disaster. The song “On the Island” features vocals from Zooey Deschanel who proves that her singing is just as underwhelming as her acting and overall appeal. The song is a lazy attempt at trying to capture some relaxing moment on a remote island, but it sounds like something that should be played at a low volume in a dentist’s office.
“Sail Away” according to Al Jardine (who is featured on the track with another former Beach Boy, Blondie Chaplin) was a take on the Beach Boys classic “Sloop John B.” It’s obvious that that’s what they were going for, but between Blondie Chaplin’s awkward singing delivery and the folk-song feel of the track – it falls way short of “Sloop John B.”
With that said, the good (thankfully) out weighs the bad. Nate Ruess of the group Fun’s appearance on “Saturday Night” is a pleasant surprise as his vocals mesh well with Brian’s.
For some reason the melody on the chorus can remind the listener of Dionne Warwick’s “Say A Little Prayer” but the harmonies are solid on the bridge and the over-all uptempo feeling is refreshing and definitely has that vintage California-Sound, Brian has owned for 50 years.
Two tracks which seem more personal for Brian are “One Kind of Love” and “The Last Song.” Unconditional love has been something Brian has been in search for and values for all of his life, and even at 72 years of age, the honesty in his voice is telling on the chorus: “There’s only one kind of love, the kind that I’ve been dreaming of, don’t you know it’s unconditional / and when you hold on to your head / only thing you’ll understand / it’s everything you’ve been wishing for.” Brian’s piano work is solid as his transition from verse to pre-chorus to chorus are all done in noticeably smooth fashion.
“The Last Song” is supposedly his coming to terms with the Beach Boys but the morbid feel this song delivers can also be interpreted as a goodbye to his loyal fans who have been with him on his entire journey.
Once again, the piano work accompanied by the strings make the hairs on your arm stand up and as Brian’s cold vocals touch the track, it’s a pleasant farewell : “Don’t let go / here’s still time for us so let’s take it slow. . . Dont be sad, there was a time and place for what we had / if there was another chance for me to sing to you.” The “la-la-la” chorus may seem a bit too relaxed or simple – but Brian wasn’t about what goes over the top – it’s about what works, and the simplicity of the chorus makes the listener focus on the verses which are heartfelt.
The song has a strong finish musically while Brian echoes “there is never enough time for the ones that you love.” Truer words couldn’t be said.
The mystery about Brian Wilson is that, we are not sure if Brian’s genius ever fully peaked. If he lived a good life, with happiness and very few pitfalls, he might’ve explored even more at his height of genius.
Then again, it’s Brian’s struggles and pitfalls that make him who he is and is the back bone of the music he creates. At 72 years of age Brian is a living legend and delivers a commendable release with “No Pier Pressure.”
Rating 6.5 out of 10