RiYL: (Tainting your memories of) the Beach Boys
Brian Wilsons latest effort, That Lucky Old Sun, finds an aging singer-songwriter desperately clinging to his old reputation. This album doesnt even come close to his musical achievements in the 1960s; the lushly arranged and often whimsically playful Beach Boys albums that I love. Instead, his songs seem overly contrived and almost saccharinely nostalgic. Instead of a full-fledged album, That Lucky Old Sun sounds more like stage-musical version of Wilsons life.
This stage-musical sound is emphasized by Wilsons insistence on including a number of narrative tracks. Between many of the songs, Wilson directly addresses his audience with voice-overs explaining the situations involved and linking the songs together. However, instead of providing a sense of cohesion, these narration breaks only serve to divide the album and distract the listener from the actual songs. In a narrative titled Between Pictures, Wilson goes so far as to quote Shakespeare. In context, this does nothing to further the storyline. It is verbose, pretentious, and utterly unnecessary.
The album also suffers from a certain perversity: Wilson teases us with songs that hint at his previous genius. Tracks such as Forever Shell Be My Surfer Girl and Mexican Girl combine elements of some of the Beach Boys best songs and are surely meant to remind us of his previous work. In reality, though, they are mere shadows of his pop gems from the 60s. And to be honest, a man approaching 70 years of age singing about surfer girls and beach life is a bit disturbing.
This isnt to say that the album is entirely bad. Wilson can still pen a damn good pop song, but he doesnt know what to do with them anymore. The tunes themselves arent bad, but Wilsons underdeveloped orchestration, reliance on melodrama, and off-Broadway vocals ruin any sort of pleasure the songs could give.